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Michigan ranks 32nd among states for child well-being in new report

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Michigan ranks 32nd among states in overall child well-being, according to a new report released today.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book, issued annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, tracks trends in child poverty, health and education.

The latest data in the report covers 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results show an increase in the number of children saying they experienced anxiety or depression. The report says 13.5% of children in Michigan reported feelings of anxiety or depression in 2020. That was above the national average, and represents about 22,000 more children than in previous reports.

Nationwide, children who identified as Black or Indigenous were more likely to report mental health struggles including attempted suicide. And LGBTQ students were four times as likely to report attempting suicide as children overall.

In statewide rankings, the report looks at four broad categories to compare states: economic well-being, health, education and family and community.

Michigan ranked:

  • 29th in economic well-being
  • 40th in education
  • 27th in health
  • 29th in family and community.

Michigan lagged behind many other states even though the numbers have been improving compared to previous years.

Alex Rossman is a spokesman for the Michigan League for Public Policy, which helps compile the data for the Kids Count report. He says he’s seen more investment in recent years that’s helped pull children out of poverty and improve outcomes for families.

“And because of some of Michigan’s specific economic challenges and how particularly hard we were hit by the Great Recession, how long it took us to come out of that and a lot of cuts to education and funding that happened during those lean years, we just have a lot more ground to make up,” Rossman said.

One area where Michigan actually stacks up well, Rossman said, is in providing health care coverage for children. Michigan ranked 4th best among states for the lowest percentage of children without health care coverage. Still, Rossman said, even those numbers could be improved. He said the state could expand health care coverage to up to 4,000 additional children in the state by implementing a provision in the Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act to waive a 5-year waiting period for the children of immigrants to become eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The Michigan League for Public Policy is also advocating expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit in Michigan, which Rossman said will help lift more families out of poverty.

“Even in areas where we are doing particularly well, we don’t want to see policymakers rest on those positives but instead keep looking at ways to improve those strong categories as well as pick up the slack in the areas that we need improvement in,” Rossman said.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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