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Kids Count report: education indicators improve; poverty and cases of child abuse increase

Feb 19, 2015

Credit Michigan League for Public Policy

An annual report that looks at the well-being of children in Michigan shows more kids are growing up in poverty.

One in four kids lives in a household at or below the poverty line. But African-American children are twice as likely to live in poverty.

“The disparities are very troubling,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell. She heads the project for the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“It speaks to the whole racial inequities that are embedded in our systems. I think that’s only fair to say,” she said. “This recession has been particularly devastating for African-Americans and the level of unemployment has been persistently higher.”

There is a bright spot though: The infant mortality rate among African American infants has “plummeted” in the past few years, according to the report, although they’re still twice as likely to die as white babies.

In addition to the infant mortality rate improving, the report shows Michigan kids are getting better at reading and teens are getting pregnant less often.

“What that says to me is that when we target an issue, when we want to do something about it, we do. But we’re not talking about child poverty that way,” Zehnder-Merrell said. “And child poverty is one of the most devastating circumstances for kids.”

The increasing poverty rate for children has led, in part, to an increase in the number of children suffering from abuse and neglect.

Almost one in ten children lives in a family that’s been investigated for abuse or neglect. But in some Michigan counties, it’s as high as one in four children. In 2013 nearly 34,000 kids were confirmed victims of abuse.