Editorial

Michigan: a state of impoverishment

February 27, 2015
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Grand Rapids Business Journal reports in depth this week on Gallup-Healthways’ latest State of American Well-Being, a study that ranks Michigan in the bottom 10 among all states.

It is a coincidence that the study was released in the same week Michigan Futures President Lou Glazer penned a commentary related to Michigan’s continued loss of residents ages 22 to 34 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, a net migration percentage worse than losses reported in 2009 during the Great Recession.

While both reports offer concrete suggestions to reverse Michigan’s dismal profile, the state legislature is preoccupied with a gun bill and an easy slash (again) of $250 million of school aid dollars, shifted to the general fund to cover shortfalls created by business tax incentives.

Gov. Rick Snyder must lead a “relentless, positive action” initiative on the same type of framework he has used well to serve businesses in the state — a systematic review of agency relevance and the interconnected methods of addressing what can be summed up as one problem: education. It has a direct impact on every business, especially in the increasingly desperate search for new hires.

Laura Kennett, assistant professor of exercise science at Grand Rapids Community College, is quoted in the Business Journal’s page one article: “People don’t realize there are more people in Michigan living at or below the poverty line than other states. Unfortunately, there is plenty of research, plenty of data that shows we can predict people’s health outcomes based on how much money they make and their education.”

The news follows Kids Count, Michigan’s annual study measuring economic conditions for children living in Michigan, which showed a 35 percent increase in child poverty over the last six years.

Kent County reports show a 40 percent increase in the same period of time and a poverty rank of 26th among Michigan’s 83 counties. Kent is one of just three Michigan counties not funded by the Michigan Healthy Kids Dental Program. Snyder is pushing to assure the counties left out (Wayne, Oakland and Kent) are included.

Kevin Callison, assistant professor of economics at Grand Valley State University, also commented on the Gallup study: “In the case of Michigan, if the low Gallup ranking is a concern and merits action, then the obvious course would be to improve population health, educational attainment and employment opportunities.”

The Kids Count report notes contributors to Michigan’s child poverty rates include: a 70 percent cut to state Earned Income Tax Credit, fewer weeks of unemployment benefits, and child care subsidy amounts that have not even equaled inflation.

No matter how many positive proclamations Snyder makes, the state will remain in the bottom 10 without an orchestrated effort to affect education; it is the most effective method to declare war on poverty.

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