- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan’s children are making improvements in school and their health is on the up, but more are living in poverty as families struggle to recover from the recession, according to a report released Thursday on child and family well-being in the state.

The Kids Count in Michigan report, released by the Michigan League for Public Policy, found that while some factors related to education and health improved for the state’s nearly 2.5 million children over the past few years, economic security declined.

Nearly one in every four Michigan children lives in an impoverished household, according to the report, which measured trends between 2006 and 2013. Researchers found that 18 percent of children statewide were in poverty in 2006, but that number rose to nearly 25 percent in 2012.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, who led the project in Michigan, said the report shows that despite the nation’s economic turnaround in recent years, many families in Michigan are still struggling.

“I think the big news here is that we are into the recovery, but we are still way higher on child poverty than we were before the recession started,” she said.

The annual report ranks Michigan’s counties on child well-being in the areas of economic security, education, health, and family and community.

A tie for the top rating went to Livingston County, home to northern suburbs of Detroit and the state’s third-highest per capita income, and Ottawa County along the central Lake Michigan coast. Both had low rates for child poverty and abuse investigations.

The lowest rated was western Michigan’s Lake County, which had a child poverty rate of nearly 40 percent.

Improvements were found across the state, including decreases in the rates of infant mortality, child and teen deaths, births to teens, children in out-of-home care, and the number of students not graduating from high school on time. Student scores on standardized tests also improved.

Rates worsened, however, for the number of children in poverty, children eligible for food aid, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, children in families investigated for abuse or neglect, and confirmed victims of abuse or neglect.

Zehnder-Merrell noted the improvements but said they weren’t enough. She pointed out that even though numbers are improving, about one-third of fourth-graders are still not proficient readers.

“We are still a long way from where we need to be. I think that is the message across the board,” she said.


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