DETROIT (AP) – Nearly six in 10 Detroit children were living below the poverty line as of 2011, and Michigan’s overall poverty rate was rising as its average income was falling, according to figures the U.S. Census Bureau released Thursday.
The agency’s yearly survey showed that from 2010 to 2011, the statewide median household income fell by 1.5 percent and the percentage of people living in poverty jumped from 16.8 percent to 17.5 percent.
Michigan’s income drop was steeper than the nation’s as a whole, which decreased by 1.3 percent from 2010 to last year. The typical Michigan household brought in $45,981 a year ago, about 9 percent less than it did in 2008. The decline caused Michigan to fall from 34th to 35th in state income rankings.
Poverty, defined by the census as annual income of $23,021 or less for a family of four, rose in Detroit from 37.6 percent to 40.9 percent between 2010 and 2011. For children younger than 18, the poverty rate was 57.3 percent last year, up from 53.6 percent in 2010.
Bill Long, interim director of the advocacy group Michigan’s Children, said his group has noticed the rise in poverty, which can translate into social problems that cause children to drop out of school.
“When family members lose employment or have a reduced income, even though they are working someplace else, it really puts a stress on the youth, especially in that junior high and high school age,” Long told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s multiple little pieces of impact on a family that make it difficult.”
Nine of the 21 communities with populations of 65,000 or more in Michigan experienced increases in their poverty rates, and eight of those reported increases in child poverty, according to the data.
In Lansing, for example, median household income fell 11 percent last year and stood at $31,975, about 22 percent below what it was in 2008.
“We see a lot of people who I would classify as underemployed people who previously had full-time jobs who are now working one or more jobs to try to make ends meet,” said Steve Maiville, director of client assistance for the Lansing Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a nonprofit group that ministers to the poor. “We see a lot of people who are seeking assistance for the first time.”
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