Children’s advocates are troubled by a new report indicating the well-being of African-American children in Michigan – that’s one in every six children – is among the lowest in the nation.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation-funded Kids Count report titled “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, which looked for the first time at data on children by racial or ethnic group, said only African-American children in Mississippi and Wisconsin fared worse.
"These results show starkly different conditions in our state for children of different races and places," Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of Kids Count in Michigan, said in a statement announcing the analysis. "Our state and local policymakers must focus on strategies to increase opportunities for families with children in all racial/ethnic groups to have better outcomes and conditions."
Michigan scored 244 out of 1,000 points on the annual index, which measures topics such as the number of babies born with normal birth weights; elementary, secondary and college education levels; household living arrangements; the number of young adults in school or with a job; two-parent families; income level; and delay in child-bearing until adulthood.
The national score for African-American children was 345.
The report, which came with policy recommendations, was disappointing, but not surprising, said a former state representative who now heads Michigan’s Children, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization for children and their families.
“Those of us who work in this arena and with children of all races know that not enough is being done and not enough focus in Congress and our state Legislature is being put on the issues for children and families,” Gillard said.
Michigan’s highest score, 787, was for Asian children, following a national trend. The state scored 688 points for white children, 501 for American Indians, and 411 for Latinos.
The rankings suggest to Zehnder-Merrell that great disparity exists in living conditions for children of different places and races.
“Our state and local policymakers must focus on strategies to increase opportunities for families with children in all racial/ethnic groups to have better outcomes and conditions,” she told the newspaper.
The report came with policy recommendations:
- Reinstate the earned income tax credit at 20 percent of the federal earned income tax credit. The federal tax credit offsets payroll and income taxes for low-income workers, mostly parents. Michigan rolled back its version of the tax credit from 20 percent to 6 percent in 2012.
- Increase the child care subsidy amount and eligibility level.
- Raise the state minimum wage from $7.40 to $10.10.
“We really need to find ways to support parents who are trying to do the right thing for their children,” Zehnder-Merrell said. “And we’re certainly not talking at the state Capitol about what the impact of some of our policies are on children of color, but it’s definitely a conversation we should be having.”