Michigan’s poverty rate dips slightly, still above national average

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About 1.4 million Michigan residents lived below the federal poverty level in 2018, according to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

A total of 14.1% of Michigan’s population was below the federal poverty level, according to 2018 data taken by the American Community Survey (ACS). The percentage for Michigan is down from 14.2% measured by the same survey in 2017. In comparison, 13.1% of the national population lives below that line. 

Low-wage working households on the rise in Michigan

Michigan’s child poverty rate stood at 19.4% for 2018, down from a rate of 19.7% taken in 2017. The 2018 figures also show about 13.6% of people ages 18 to 64 and 9% of people older than 64 lived below the poverty line.

Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst with the nonpartisan Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), said it’s “disgraceful that so many hard-working Michiganders and their families are below the poverty line. Our rate is almost unchanged from last year, and Detroit and Flint have some of the highest poverty rates in the nation for cities their size. 

“If Michigan were serious about addressing poverty, policymakers would enact some common-sense solutions that would help struggling workers and their families and benefit the state economy,” he continued.

Ruark said the state should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which was cut from 20% of the federal credit to 6% in 2011 as part of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s tax reform. 

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In 2011, the tax credit for low-income people brought roughly 20,000 families out of poverty, according to the MLPP. By 2014, it brought only 6,800 families out of poverty under the reduced rate.

The MLPP also backs raising the minimum wage, expanding the state child care subsidy and expanding the paid sick leave law. 

“There is a clear policy path to help workers get out of poverty — we just need leaders to act on it,” Ruark said.

The U.S. Census Bureau also found that national income inequality grew to its highest rate from 2017 to 2018, and the Gini Index — used to measure income inequality — has continued its trend of rising in the last 50 years.

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The U.S. median household income increased by .8% to $61,937 from 2017 to 2018, according to the data. Michigan’s median household income was $56,697 in 2018, up from $54,909 in 2017. 

2019 federal guidelines establish a four-member household earning under $25,750 annually as the poverty line, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). 

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