GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan is home to one of the top counties for child well-being, according to a new analysis.

Ottawa County tied Clinton County for second place, behind Livingston County in the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan report, released Tuesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

>>Report: Kids Count in Michigan (pdf)

Ottawa was among the top five counties with the lowest percentage of children living in poverty, portion of students eligible for subsidized lunches and food aid, and confirmed victims of abuse or neglect. It took the top spot for percentage of eighth-graders proficient in math and students ready for college.


The report compares 2016 data to numbers from 2010 in 16 key areas involving economic security, health and safety, family and community and education. The child well-being rank is based on 14 of the areas, disclosing infant mortality and teen deaths because of insufficient data.

Ottawa County was the only county in West Michigan to crack the top 10. Muskegon County ranked among the worst for overall child well-being, coming in at 80.

Here’s how West Michigan counties ranked:

2. Ottawa County (tie with Clinton County)

16. Barry County

17. Allegan County

18. Kent County

22: Ionia County

38. Kalamazoo County

44. Montcalm County

51. Mecosta County

52. Newaygo County

53. Branch County

69. St. Joseph County

79. Calhoun County

80. Muskegon County


The report found most 3- and 4-year-old children are not enrolled in preschool, at 52.7 percent. That’s relatively unchanged.

Nearly 56 percent of third-graders were not proficient in English. That rate was even higher among minorities; about 7 in 10 students of color did not pass the reading test, compared to 48 percent of white students.

The majority of students were also not career or college ready, at 65 percent.


While Michigan’s child poverty level improved since 2010 to 1 in 5 children affected, the report revealed children of color are also disproportionately impacted, including 42 percent of African-American children and 30 percent of Latino children. The analysis also found 31 percent of children lived with families that didn’t have year-round, full-time employment.

The racial disparity is evident from the start. According to the report, African-American babies were nearly three times more likely to die before their first birthday when compared to white babies. Approximately 44 percent of African-American women, 40 percent of Latinas and 36 percent of American Indian and Middle Eastern women didn’t receive adequate prenatal care, compared to the overall average of about 30 percent with inadequate care.  Nearly 1 in 5 pregnant women reported smoking during their pregnancy. That number was higher among mothers in rural communities.


The Kids Count report also pointed out how youth treated as adults by the justice system were 34 percent more likely to reoffend, do it sooner, and move onto more serious crimes.

The Michigan League for Public Policy recommends passing a set of bills introduced in Lansing that would raise the age someone is considered a juvenile in the court system from 17 years old to 18 years old.

“Regardless of their offense, 17-year-olds in our state are being punished for a lifetime, facing traumatic experiences, getting a criminal record and missing out on education and rehabilitation services. However, with age-appropriate treatment, many will have the opportunity to be productive and help strengthen their communities,” project director Alicia Guevara Warren stated in Tuesday’s news release.

The Michigan League for Public Policy is also recommending:

  • Strengthening programs that support employment, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Ensure access to affordable, quality child care
  • Expand family support visitation programs
  • Fund early intervention efforts to improve third grade reading levels