Economy continues to hurt Michigan's youth

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan continues to rank below average on some key economic measures for child well-being compared to other states, according to a recent report.

The state ranked 30th overall in state-by-state rankings in the annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which is based primarily on data from 2007 through 2009. It's the same overall ranking as in last year's report for Michigan, which was the worst showing in a decade. Michigan's top overall ranking in the past decade was 24th in 2002.

Child poverty appears to be a growing problem in Michigan during the past several years, in which the state's unemployment rate was above the national average. The state ranked 38th in the child poverty measure for 2009, defined as income below $21,756 for a family of two adults and two children.

About 23 percent of Michigan's children lived in poverty in 2009, compared to 14 percent in 2000. The national average was 20 percent in 2009 and 17 percent in 2000.

"Michigan traditionally has had a pretty sound standard of living -- higher than the national average," said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of the Kids Count state project with the Michigan League for Human Services. "And now we have a child poverty rate that's higher than the national average. It's just stunning to think about what it means."

Zehnder-Merrell said she's worried about future trends because the state has reduced funding for some support systems for families in need.

Michigan's worst ranking also was directly related to the economy. The state ranked 47th in the nation with 36 percent of children under 18 living in a household where no parent had full-time, year-round employment. The national average in 2009 was 31 percent.

The report said that in 2010, about 12 percent of the state's children had at least one unemployed parent. The report also indicates about 5 percent of the state's children have been affected by home foreclosures since 2007.

Michigan has had better-than-average rankings for births to teen mothers, child death rates and teen death rates.

New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Jersey had the highest overall rankings in the annual Kids Count survey. Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas and New Mexico ranked lowest.

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Online:

Kids Count report: http://www.kidscount.org

Published: Thu, Aug 18, 2011