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Michigan children continue to face poverty, academic challenges

Kids at a public school in Flint.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Fewer children in Michigan lived in poverty in 2016, but the numbers are still grim.

The latest Kids Count Data Book says between 2010 and 2016, the state's child poverty rate dropped from 23 percent to 21 percent. However, that still means nearly half a million children lived below the poverty line in 2016.

Rates also remain particularly high for children of color. The report says in 2016, 42 percent of African American children and 30 percent of Latino children lived in poverty.

The report makes several recommendations as to how the state can improve outcomes for children. One is to raise the age at which they become eligible to enter the adult criminal justice system from 17 to 18 years old. 

Right now, Michigan is one of only five states in which 17 is the age of jurisdiction. Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director, says passing "raise the age" bills is one way state lawmakers could improve outcomes for children.

"Regardless of their offense, 17-year-olds in our state are being punished for a lifetime, getting a criminal record and missing out on education and rehabilitation services," she says. "With age-appropriate treatment, many will have the opportunity to be productive and help strengthen their communities."

Guevara Warren also says that to improve economic security for children, the state must improve conditions for their parents. That includes things like more post-secondary education opportunities and access to high-quality, affordable child care.

Other key recommendations made in the report include:

  • Strengthen policies that support work, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Allowing families to keep more of what they earn improves educational and health outcomes for kids.
  • Expand home visitation programs to help provide additional support to families, remove barriers that prevent access to prenatal care, and reduce risk for child abuse and neglect
  • Provide sufficient funding for early interventions to improve third-grade reading using a birth-to-8 framework and adequately fund public schools, targeting resources in high-need areas and fully funding the At-Risk program.

You can read the full report here.

Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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