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Report: African-American Kids in Michigan Last In Nation for Well-Being

Racial barriers are robbing many Michigan kids of a traditional childhood and of future opportunities. (ladyheart/morguefile)
Racial barriers are robbing many Michigan kids of a traditional childhood and of future opportunities. (ladyheart/morguefile)
October 24, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan is failing its children, according to a new report that finds all kids in the state struggling academically, and African-American children ranking worst in the nation on key indicators of health, economic security, education and community.

The "2017 Race for Results" report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that just nine percent of African-American fourth-graders in Michigan are reading proficiently - the lowest rate of any state, with Latino and white kids in the bottom five states nationally.

Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Project Director for the Michigan League for Public Policy, says this is not the time for policymakers to take a colorblind approach.

"We really need to acknowledge these disparities," she says. "The data shows us exactly what's happening with our communities of color, and that should really be driving the types of policy we're creating, because we know that if we help all kids, Michigan will be a stronger place."

The report also found African-American kids in Michigan much less likely to be living in two-parent homes, while more than 25 percent of Latino kids in the state live with a householder without at least a high school diploma. Guevara Warren says that points to the need for a broad, two-generation approach to removing barriers and lifting families out of poverty.

Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, says there are many proven policies that help families become economically strong.

"Things like assistance with employment, access to tax credits, things like SNAP, housing and child care," she notes. "These are all things that can make a big difference in allowing parents to really be able to earn enough to support their families."

Michigan currently has about 284,000 immigrant children, and Guevara Warren says the report finds that their experiences and struggles vary. But she says there's no doubt the current political climate, and the fear and uncertainty many immigrant families face are taking a toll.

"Those things are going to have an impact on outcomes for all Michigan kids in the long term, so I think it's really important that we're focusing in on policies that are inclusive, thinking about culturally and racially responsive programs that can ensure that all children in Michigan can thrive," she explains.

In conjunction with the Race for Results report, the Michigan League for Public Policy has put together an analysis of Michigan's immigrant population, with profiles of each county in the state. That report is available on the league's website.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI