Poverty, education among top issues for Michigan children


(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Poverty continues to be an issue that plagues kids in our state, according to the new Kids Count numbers out Tuesday.

More than one in five kids in Michigan lives in poverty, and that number grows for children of color.

Each year, the Michigan League for Public Policy looks at 16 key indicators for kids. They examine the issues that affect them the most -- like poverty, prenatal care, education and access to healthy foods.

The 2018 Kids Count report reveals that poverty and other economic strains remain a significant problem for Michigan kids, especially kids of color. While the rate of child poverty in Michigan has improved by 11.5 percent since 2010, more than one in five kids in Michigan— including 42 percent of African-American kids and 30 percent of Latino kids— still lived in poverty in 2016. Additionally, 31 percent of children in Michigan lived in families without year-round, full-time employment.

Economic and academic struggles go hand-in-hand for many Michigan kids. Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in education for kids with many disparate outcomes for students of color and students in families with low incomes. Nearly 53 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds are not in preschool. About 56 percent of the state’s 3rd graders are not proficient in reading, including about 70 percent of kids of color compared to 48 percent of White 3rd graders.

These problems persist as kids age, with 65 percent of Michigan’s students not being career- and college-ready.

The study also gives an overall rank by county out of the 82 counties studied.

  • Ottawa County: #2
  • Barry County: #16
  • Allegan County: #17
  • Kent County: #18
  • Kalamazoo County: #38
  • Van Buren County: #55
  • Calhoun County: #79

The study also makes recommendations to help improve outcomes for kids. The biggest suggestion made in the 2018 data book outlined raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years.

Michigan is one of only five states yet to do so, and a bipartisan package of bills to change the law has already been introduced and is awaiting action. Youth who are charged in the adult system do not receive adequate education or age-appropriate treatment and services. Kids housed in adult correctional facilities face a higher risk of being physically or sexually assaulted, and are much more likely to recidivate or commit more violent offenses than youth served by the juvenile justice system.

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