Report: Pandemic threatens progress made for kids, exposes greatest needs

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan was doing better than half of other U.S. states in children’s economic security and health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was falling short on education needs, according to the 2021 Kids Count data book.

The book, developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation uses household data to analyze how families have fared between the Great Recession and the last year before the COVID-19 crisis.

The Michigan League for Public Policy also released its 2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book. Together, the state and national reports on child well-being show nearly a decade of progress on kids’ and families’ needs could be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic unless policymakers work to sustain the beginnings of a recovery from the coronavirus crisis. 

“As we look at the things Michigan has done well to better support kids and parents over the last decade, the improvements we’ve seen in children’s health and economic security are now the very areas still being threatened by COVID-19, and the pandemic stands to make Michigan’s existing struggles in education outcomes even worse,” said Kelsey Perdue, Michigan Kids Count director. “We have seen the progress we can make with a concerted effort, sound policy decisions and related investments, and policymakers need to follow that same formula to offset COVID’s impact, especially with the increased state and federal funding available right now.” 

The report considers four categories — economic well-being, education, health and family and community context. In 2021, Michigan was ranked 28th in the nation in overall child well-being, an improvement from its ranking of 32nd last year. Michigan’s best national rank in the four categories was 22nd in Health, followed by its rankings of 24th in Economic Well-Being and 29th in Family and Community Context. Michigan’s lowest national rank was again in Education at 41st in the country. 

Some noteworthy data points include:

  • ECONOMIC WELL-BEING: In 2019, 371,000 children lived in households with an income below the poverty line.
  • EDUCATION: In 2017–19, 125,000 young children were not in school.
  • AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: In 2019, 78,000 children did not have health insurance.
  • FAMILY AND COMMUNITY CONTEXT: In 2015–19, 295,000 children lived in high-poverty areas.

While the report includes the most recent information available for the state, Alex Rossman, the external affairs director for the MLPP said it does not fully capture the impact of the past year. 

“What we’re trying to emphasize is to keep the positive momentum that both our state and many of our counties have had in child well-being, to keep that going and not let the pandemic knock us back permanently,” Rossman said.

He added that the COVID-19 crisis actually lifted up many the policies that the MLPP has been advocating for decades. 

“In some ways I think a silver lining of the crisis that we’ve all been going through is that it has drawn more attention from a policy perspective to a lot of the areas that are supporting families that are struggling.”

Rossman said he’s hopeful that as the legislature continues to negotiate the state budget, this report will help inform policymakers to see which areas that money should be invested in to better support Michigan kids and help them recover from the pandemic. 

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