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Report: African-American Children in MI Face Barriers To Success

PHOTO: Michigan has a long way to go to provide opportunities for children of all races to succeed, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo courtesy US Dept. of Education.
PHOTO: Michigan has a long way to go to provide opportunities for children of all races to succeed, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Photo courtesy US Dept. of Education.
April 1, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - If Michigan can truly be a place where all kids have the chance to succeed, the state has a long way to go, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study compares how children of different races and ethnic backgrounds are doing on such key indicators as early childhood education, high school graduation rates, and neighborhood resources.

According to Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count Michigan project director, the state's African American kids have been ranked the third-worst-off in the country, and attributes much of that to the fact that so many live in high-poverty areas.

"And it actually could have some connections that would be very unhealthy for children growing up: high unemployment, high depression rate, a lack of resources in the community," she said.

Zehnder-Merrell said lawmakers need to develop a comprehensive urban policy to address what she calls a pervasive lack of opportunity for inner-city children, and added that Michigan's urban areas have not recovered from the devastating effects of the recession, the restructuring of the auto industry, and the collapse of the housing market. This report shows it's children who are paying the price, she said.

"So, it's sort of been a long, downward spiral since 2000, and without any attention to our urban areas to rebuild and revitalize our economy."

The report also shows that other states with similar ethnic and racial makeups, such as New Jersey, score far better for the well-being of African-American children. Zehnder-Merrell said Michigan could emulate those states by improving access to high-quality early childhood education, and to more social services in urban areas.

The full report, called "Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity For All Children," is online at AECF.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI