The University of Michigan is teaming up with the city of Detroit to fight poverty and promote economic mobility.
The university’s Poverty Solutions program announced it will put up to $2 million into an effort to understand and promote the sources of upward mobility in the city.
The project will support a variety of existing anti-poverty efforts, examine the need for ones, and evaluate what works and what doesn’t, says U of M Associate Professor and Poverty Solutions Director Luke Shaefer.
“That’s what a research institution like the U of M brings to the fore. Thinking of this as a type of evaluation that can really see what’s bringing value,” Shaefer said.
Current joint projects involving U of M faculty members and Detroit city departments include efforts to help residents avoid property tax foreclosure, developing a better method for conducting neighborhood community need surveys, and piloting a community health worker program in one Detroit neighborhood.
Shaefer says there will be a big focus on collecting and analyzing data about what people in poverty really need to get ahead. “We really believe that data can be a helpful component for communities to figure out what they might want to focus on, what their priorities are,” he said.
The program will also fund a new city staff position, the assistant director of economic mobility, to support collaboration between U of M and the city.
"This partnership between the University of Michigan and the city will be a great help in our efforts to provide pathways out of poverty to our residents who are still struggling,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement from the university.
35.7% of Detroiters lived in poverty in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s down from prior years, but still the highest rate among the nation’s big cities.