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Report: More Michigan Kids Growing Up in Poor Neighborhoods

February 23, 2012

LANSING, Mich. - Michigan fares poorly compared with the rest of the nation when it comes to the number of children growing up in the poorest neighborhoods, according to a report released today.

Michigan ranks 44th out of the 50 states for the percentage of children living in areas of concentrated poverty in the new KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Detroit has the highest percentage of any large U.S. city.

The impact on children who grow up in poor neighborhoods is profound, says Jane Zehnder-Merrell, a project director at the Michigan League for Human Services, even in cases where their own families are not poor.

"It means that families will struggle in terms of meeting their basic needs around food and shelter. They're also more likely to experience harmful levels of stress, and the children will exhibit behavioral and emotional problems as a result."

This is not just a big-city issue, notes Zehnder-Merrell, because 32 of the state's 83 counties were found to have large numbers of children growing up in high-poverty communities, many of them in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

The new data shows that 341,000 Michigan children now are living in areas of concentrated poverty, Zehnder-Merrell says, and that the increase during the past 10 years would represent all the state's first-graders. The startling increase points to the need for policymakers to support programs which promote asset building and employment, she says, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was drastically cut by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration. She adds, though, that the Snyder administration's support for mass transit should be applauded.

"That will address the ability of people living in these concentrations of poverty to have access to jobs or housing in other areas."

The report finds that building communities around major institutions, such as universities and hospitals, can go a long way toward improving the lives of children and helping to create support networks.

The full report is online at AECF.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI