children. poverty

Rebecca Guerriero / Michigan Radio

This next story seems right for this time of year.

A children's choir is in Michigan this month ... from South Africa.

They're from the outskirts of Durban, a beautiful port city that also has one of the worst AIDS epidemics in the world.

Many of the kids in the choir are orphans. Several have HIV themselves.

It's their first time in the U.S., and they're traveling around the state all this month to raise money for friends and family back home.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Lake County, in central northern Michigan, is the poorest part of the state, with nearly half of its children living in poverty. That’s according to the latest Kids Count data. So Jennifer Guerra with our State of Opportunity project went north to visit the rural county to see what life is like there for families.

The county is an area rich in natural beauty, with hundreds of lakes and streams and acres of forest land, but it's very short on job opportunities.

The Michigan League for Public Policy released its annual Kids Count data book yesterday. Unfortunately, it didn’t get a lot of attention in most of the media.

To the extent that I did hear or read about the Kids Count report across our state, the coverage emphasized two things:

Much of it focused on how kids were doing in a particular area, since for the first time, the report ranked individual counties on a wide variety of indicators. Beyond that, we did hear that the overall well-being of our children got significantly worse in the years two thousand and five to two thousand and eleven. That’s something you might expect, given the Great Recession.

But to me, that’s not the real news, and none of the media gave this report nearly the attention it deserved. This report, which anyone can read online, reveals that more than half a million Michigan children are living in poverty. Half a million!

Michael Newman / flickr

State of Opportunity is covering tomorrow's announcement of poverty estimates by the Census Bureau. The numbers will show how many Americans lived in poverty during 2011.

http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/bystate/StateLanding.aspx?state=MI

A new report on child well-being ranks Michigan in the bottom half of all states: 32nd overall, down two spots from last year. 

Many little things can conspire to keep people from climbing out of poverty.

Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity project takes of look at some of them in his report, When Working Hard Doesn't Necessarily Get You Out of Poverty.

He writes, “life is hard for people in poverty. But, … you still have no idea what it’s like to live with poverty day after day.”

Here are three things that the average middle class person probably doesn’t worry about.

  1. "If you’ve got a college degree, and you’re on salary, would taking your daughter to school really be a major factor in losing your job?" It was for the father Dustin Dwyer spoke to in his story.
  2. Losing your kids to the foster care system, not because you do horrible things, but because you don’t have the resources.  University of Michigan law professor Vivek Sankaran says that happens more often than you'd think.
  3. Not being able to pay your parking tickets and losing your license.