Equal Equitable Policies Needed for Longer Life Expectancy

Socioeconomic factors have a direct impact on the span of one’s life. Our posts on January 3,16 and 23 have demonstrated clear relationships between lifespan and key policy variables.

Where do you live? What is your highest-level education? How much do you earn? Do you have access to health care? Depending on how an individual answers each of those questions, their life expectancy may go up or down.

As we’ve learned over the last several weeks:

  • Those living at or below the poverty line have a lower life expectancy.
  • Those with a bachelor’s degree or higher have a higher life expectancy.
  • Those without health insurance have lower life expectancy.

We further examined the combined impact of these three factors to help understand which is most important. Using multiple regression analysis, we estimated the impact of each variable as well as their combined effect. Together they explain 62.6% of the variance in life expectancy across the region, meaning that nearly two thirds of one’s age at death is related to their combined effect. This is a highly statistically significant effect with less than one chance in a 1,000 that this estimate is a result of chance. Further, of the three variables, the most powerful variable is the level of education (b=0.100; beta=0.456). It is almost one and half times as powerful as poverty (-0.099; -0.345) the second most powerful variable. And education is four times as powerful as being uninsured (-0.081;-0.101).

Nevertheless, all three of these variables contributed an independent effect on life expectancy. These variables are correlated with each other, which under certain conditions can bias these results, but after examining statistics such multicollinearity this does not appear to be a problem. So, while poverty effects both education and the likelihood that somebody in uninsured, each provides an independent effect. No doubt other factors do as well, including chance, habits, and one’s genetic background.

Still it is both sad and potentially hopeful that much of the differences in life expectancy across our region can be explained by these factors because all of these factors are ones we, as a society and a polity, can affect.

This helps us answer the question of what can be done to improve average length of an individual’s life. We need to start by decreasing poverty. Decreasing poverty is not easy to tackle, but there are steps policy makers can take to lower the number of people living at or below the poverty level. Such actions include increasing the minimum wage, creating policies focused on long-term job growth and supporting equity in pay structures, job opportunities and available housing. Perhaps the most important policy is to use the tax system to redistribute income by taxing the very rich (the one and two percenters) to provide supports and services to those with less income. Remember the U.S. once taxed high earners at a rate over 70 percent.

More tax revenue would support higher education, which has recently been strangled by decreasing support from state governments and increasing reliance on student loans. The over-reliance on loans burdens graduating students with long term loan payments, which decrease their mobility and their ability to pursue graduate education.

The creation of a semblance of a national health care system through Obamacare has provided some basic protections for many who had no care. There are, however, still many that do not have care or for whom care is so expensive they cannot truly afford it. Increasing access to health insurance will also require extensive work, but one way to start includes providing information to the underserved on their current options to receive healthcare, and extending these services. Policies reforming the fee structures instituted by insurance and medical companies and creating alternative payment methods are other ways to make health care more accessible.

Overall, discovering reasons why certain communities in Southeastern Michigan have such lower average life expectancies helps us understand what we need to move ahead. Let’s provide them with the income to create healthy lifestyle and sustain longer lives. However, actions must be taken in order for those opportunities to be made available. We as a society, and our policy makers, need to ensure equity and equality are inherent parts of the socioeconomic policies that can ultimately give individuals an opportunity to live a longer life.

 

Education Related to Life Expectancy in Southeastern Michigan

Another way to think about life expectancy is to say that it is partially a result of the choices we make, and the quality of choices might be indicated by our extent of education. Here we have represented education by the percent of a tract’s population over 25 that has a bachelor’s degree or higher. One could argue, appropriately, that getting a college education is at least partially a function of family income, but for now we want to see the simple correlation of this measure or education and life expectancy. We find a correlation between life expectancy and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher is 0.721 (sig. 0.00), meaning, as an individual’s education level increases so does their average age of life expectancy. In Detroit, the map below shows that majority of the Census Tracts that make up the City have about 8 percent of the 25 years of age and older population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. And, as we’ve discussed throughout this series, Detroit has among the lowest average life expectancy rates in the Southeastern Michigan region. The two Census Tracts in Detroit with the highest life expectancy rates (86-90 years of age) also have the highest percentage of individuals age 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The one Census Tract just south of 8 Mile Road with the highest average life expectancy rate has between 15 and 25 percent of the 25 years of age and older population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. The other Census Tract in Detroit with the highest average life expectancy is just southwest of Downtown Detroit and has between 25 and 48 percent of the 25 and older population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. On the opposite side of the spectrum, three of the four Census Tracts in the Detroit with the lowest average life expectancy (62-65) also have the lowest percentage of residents 25 years of age and older who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Outside of Detroit there are similar trends: communities with lower average life expectancies tend to also have lower percentages of individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher. For example, the majority of Washtenaw County has an average life expectancy at 86 years of age or older. Additionally, the majority of that county has 15 percent or more of the 25 years of age and older population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. There are exceptions, areas in the more rural counties, particularly Monroe and St. Clair counties, though that have average life expectancies above the regional average but have lower percentages of individuals living with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

As has been shown above, there is a strong positive correlation between the percentage of individuals 25 years of age and older who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and an individual’s life expectancy. This positive correlation is further demonstrated in the scattergram below, which shows that as the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher increases, so does the average life expectancy. The chart also shows that majority of the population in Southeastern Michigan has a life expectancy between 70 and 80 years of age with 20 percent or less of that population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, the chart shows that any area with a population that has 60 percent or more of the population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher has an average life expectancy of 75 years of age or higher.

As has been shown through some of the examples above, there is a strong positive correlation between the percentage of individuals 25 years of age and older who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and an individual’s life expectancy. This positive correlation is further demonstrated in the chart above, which shows that as the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher increases, so does the average life expectancy. Additionally, the chart shows that any area with a population that has 60 percent or more of the population having earned a bachelor’s degree or higher has an average life expectancy of 75 years of age or higher.

Overall, these maps and the graph show that education is related to an individual’s life expectancy. Reasons for this include, tendency to earn higher wages, which allows easier access to health care and transportation. In a recent News Scientist article it was also stated that more education leads to higher life expectancy because education improves an individual’s cognitive abilities, which allows for better planning and self-control.

Next week, we will further examine how all three factors, education, access to health insurance and poverty, all affect an individual’s life expectancy.

Lower Life Expectancy Related to Lack of Health Insurance

The correlation between life expectancy and those who are uninsured is -0.617 (sig. 0.00), meaning that there is moderately strong tendency for the length of life to decline as lack of access to health care (i.e. being uninsured) increases. In general, those without health insurance tend to live shorter lives. For example, in the City of Detroit, there are more than 25 different Census Tracts where residents have a life expectancy of 70 years of age or less. Of those Census Tracts, majority of them have 21 percent of the population or more living without health insurance. Even as life expectancy increases to the median range of the spectrum in Detroit, the evidence shows that majority of the Census Tracts have about 13 percent of the population or more without health insurance. Interestingly though, only one of the four Census Tracts where the average life expectancy is 65 years of age has 21 percent or more of the population living without health insurance. The other three Census Tracts with such an average life expectancy has between 13 and 21 percent of the population living without health insurance.

When moving beyond the boundaries of Detroit, in many of the outer-ring suburbs life expectancy increases as does the percentage of residents with health care. For example, majority of Washtenaw, St. Clair and Monroe counties have less than 13 percent of the populations living without health insurance and average life expectancies at 76 years of age or higher. With the exception of one Census Tract in southern Monroe County, no other areas in those three outlying counties have more than 21 percent of the population living without health insurance. As you do move in closer to Detroit though, there are wider ranges of life expectancies and access to health care. In Wayne County, for example, areas such as Romulus and Lincoln Park also have lower life expectancies (70 years of age or less) and more than 21 percent of the population not having health insurance. But, there are also areas, such as Grosse Ile, where the average life expectancy is 86 years of age and above and 8 percent or less of the population do not have health insurance. While the average life expectancy tends to be higher in Macomb and Oakland counties, there are still pockets, such as South Warren, Mt. Clemens and Pontiac, where the average life expectancy is 70 years of age or less and those without health insurance is at about 13 percent or higher.

As has been shown through some of the examples above, there is a moderately strong negative correlation between the percentage of the population living without health insurance and the average life expectancy of Census Tracts in Southeastern Michigan. This is further demonstrated in the chart above, which ultimately shows that as the percentage of the population living without health insurance increases the average life expectancy decreases. The chart also shows though that majority of the Census Tracts in Southeastern Michigan have an average life expectancy of about 75 years of age or higher with 10 percent of less of the population living without health insurance.

 

Overall, these maps and the graph show that while there is a range in life expectancies in Southeastern Michigan, there is also a range in those with access to health care, particularly those in and around Detroit. Access to health care is important as health care providers can not only treat, but also prevent, a plethora of illnesses and diseases. Such knowledge and treatment is vital for longer life expectancies.

Economic Indicators: Unemployment Drops in Detroit

  • In November unemployment rates remain stagnant at the state level, decrease in Detroit;
  • Majority of Southeastern Michigan counties have higher average weekly wages than the national average;
  • Housing prices continue to rise in Metro-Detroit.

In November of 2018 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.9, a rate that did not change from the previous month, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for November of 2017 was 0.7 points above what it was in November of 2018.

The Detroit rate was 1.3 points lower in November of 2018 from the previous month. Also, the November 2018 unemployment rate for Detroit was 0.2 points higher than what it was in November of 2017.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for November of 2017 and 2018. All declined except for Livingston, which stayed the same. In November of 2018 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.6, with St. Clair County having the second highest regional unemployment rate 4.1. Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties were the only three in the region with unemployment rates at or below 3 in November of 2018. The unemployment rate for Livingston County was 2.9, the unemployment rate for Oakland County was 3 and the unemployment rate for Washtenaw County was 2.6.

Washtenaw County experienced the largest decline, with the November 2017 unemployment rate being 3.3 and the November 2018 unemployment rate being 2.6.

Regionally, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, Oakland County has the highest average weekly wages for all industries at $1,168, with Washtenaw County following closely at $1,134 and Wayne County just behind that at $1,125. The U.S. average weekly earnings were $887; St. Clair and Livingston counties are the only two in the region with average weekly earnings below the national average.

The above chart shows the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $124,840 in November 2018; this was $30 lower than the average family dwelling price in October. The November 2018 price was an increase of $6,990 from November of 2017 and an increase of $15,050 from November of 2016, an increase of $21,570 from November of 2015 and increase of $26,620 from November of 2014. Note that the amount of annual increase is declining steadily.

Poverty Affects Life Expectancy in Detroit, Region

There is a huge variation in life expectancies in Southeastern Michigan, from an average of 62 years in the lowest Census Tract to a high in 85.9 in the highest tract. Moreover life expectancy is closely and negatively related to poverty. The correlation between life expectancy and poverty is -0.713 (sig. 0.01), meaning that there is moderately strong tendency for the length of life to decline as poverty increases in a tract. Or, put simply, poor people die sooner, a lot sooner. Both the maps and chart below present the relationship between shorter life expectancy and poverty or conversely lower levels of poverty in a tract and higher average life expectancy. At the same time, the majority of the areas in Southeastern Michigan have 20 percent or fewer of families living below the poverty line, along with average life expectancies between about 75 and 85 years of age. For reference, the average life expectancy in the United States is about 79 years of age and the federal poverty level for a family of four is $24,300. In 2017 12.7 percent of the U.S. population was living in poverty.

For the City of Detroit there is an average life expectancy across tracts is 71 to 75 years of age, although there are several Census Tracts where the average life expectancy is well below 70. Most of the Census Tracts in Detroit, especially those with lower life expectancies, have more than 28 percent of the population living at or below the poverty line. Specifically, there are three Census Tracts in Detroit where the average life expectancy is between 62 and 65 and the percentage of the population living below the poverty line ranges from about 29-100 percent (the highest threshold in the Detroit map below). While Detroit demonstrates the correlation between higher than average poverty rates and lower life expectancy, there are certain parts of the region where the life expectancy is about on par with the national average (78.8 years of age) but the percentage of the population live in poverty is at or below the national poverty rate (12.7 percent). These examples occur in the mainly the rural areas of the region, such as parts of St. Clair, Livingston and Monroe counties. In general though, radiating out beyond Detroit and the inner-ring suburbs, poverty levels decrease, and the average life expectancy increases. For example, in nearly all of western Washtenaw County the average life expectancy ranges from 81-85 with the poverty levels being at or below 12 percent.

As has been attributed in some of the specific examples noted above, there is a moderately high negative correlation between the percentage of the population living at or below the poverty line and the average life expectancy of Census Tracts in Southeastern Michigan. When looking at the median poverty levels of the region with the life expectancies there is a -0.713 P value, which is statistically significant at the .01 level. What this means is that as the percent in poverty increases, there is a tendency for average life expectancy to decrease.

Overall, these maps show that throughout Southeastern Michigan there is a wide range in life expectancy and poverty levels, with outer ring suburbs faring better and more urban areas, such as Detroit, and some rural areas faring worse. While we see here that poverty does relate to average life expectancy rates, other factors that may also affect average life expectancy include access to health care and educational attainment. The correlation between these factors and the average life expectancy will be explored in the next two posts.

Ethanol Fueled Vehicles Most Popular Among Those Powered by Alternative Fuels

With alternative energy sources slowly growing more popular for consumption, there are also certain sources that remain popular to fuel vehicles. The U.S. Energy Information Administration provides data on the number of vehicles that are powered by alternative energy sources. Ethanol is by far the most commonly used alternative fuel source used to power vehicles, followed by electric hybrid vehicles. While the use of some of these alternative fuel sources is growing, most of the fuel sources have experienced a decrease in use in recent years.

Of the alternative fuels sources the U.S. Energy Information Administration provides information on, ethanol was the most highly used fuel source. Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials.

In 2004 there were 674,678 vehicles that used ethanol as a fuel source. By 2013 that number reached its peak at more than 2.6 million vehicles using ethanol as a fuel source. While the number of vehicles using ethanol as a fuel source has declined in recent years ( in 2016 about 1.4 million vehicles used it as a fuel source), it still remains the most utilized renewable fuel source for vehicles.

The number of gas-electric hybrid vehicles produced on an annual basis has been increasing since 2004. In 2004 there were 88,272 gas-electric hybrid vehicles and in 2016 that number was 399,367. It was in 2013 when there was the most number of gas-electric hybrid vehicles, that number was 458,994.

The use of diesel-electric hybrid vehicles has not been as popular and has not grown as much as gas-hybrid vehicle. In 2004 there were 419 diesel-electric hybrid vehicles and by 2016 that number had only grown to 1,053. The number of diesel-electric hybrid vehicles peaked in 2009 at 2,223.

The use of electric vehicles didn’t really take off until 2013 when there was an inventory of 130,323. Between 2004 and 2010 though there were no more than 3,200 electric vehicles each of those years. It was in 2011 when the use of electric vehicles began to take off, and by 2016 there were 160,191 electric vehicles.

While compressed natural gas is widely available, its utilization as a fuel source falls below many of the other renewable fuel sources available to vehicles. In 2016 there were 5,730 vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas, a number that is below how many there were in 2004 (7,752). It was in 2013 when there was the most amount of vehicles fueled by compressed natural gas, that number was 9,454.

Michigan’s Energy Production Needs to Shift Toward Renewable Sources

While the types of energy consumed in Michigan vary amongst sources, the energy produced in Michigan is much more limited. For example, no coal powered energy is produced in Michigan. Rather, the coal consumed in the state is brought in from other states, particularly those west of Michigan, on railways.

The information provided in this post from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

At one point, natural gas was the largest energy source in Michigan, reaching its peak production at 312 trillion BTUs in 2000. Since then, the amount of natural gas produced in Michigan has steadily declined. Between 2007 and 2008 the amount of natural gas produced in Michigan declined from 275 trillion BTUs to 162 trillion BTUs. In 2016, 107 trillion BTUs of natural gas energy was produced.

Crude oil production has ranged between 45 and 32 trillion BTUs since 2000, with various peaks and valleys between then and 2016. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Michigan ranks 19th out of the 50 states for crude oil production. In 2016, 32.1 trillion BTUs of crude oil was produced. This is a decrease from the 45.9 trillion BTUs produced in 2000.

Crude oil production in the state comes from reserves; in 2017 about 5.4 million barrels of crude oil were produced compared to the 34.7 million barrels that were produced in 1979. Please note the chart references BTUs, while barrels of crude oil is another measurement used to detail production of this energy source.

Nuclear energy is the energy source that is produced the most in Michigan. In 2016 there were 330 trillion BTUs produced, up from the 200 produced in 2000. There are three nuclear power plants in Michigan, which produce about 30 percent of the electricity used in the state. While there have been some changes in the amount of nuclear energy produced in Michigan, it has remained at around 325 trillion BTU average for the last 15 years.

The amount of renewable energy produced in Michigan, both from biofuels and other sources, has grown since 2000, but none of those sources total the amount of energy produced by the state’s natural gas or nuclear energy sources. For biofuels, in 2002 there was zero energy production by this source. Since then it has increased to 37.7 trillion BTUs. For other renewable energy sources, which include wind, solar and hydroelectric energy, there has been a slow increase in production, with somewhat of a spike in 2014. In 2014 there were 164 trillion BTUs of renewable energy produced in Michigan; in 2016 there were 156.9 trillion BTUs.

The production of renewable energy in Michigan has been increasing since 2000, although there has been a slight decline in such production since 2014. In 2014, 202.2 trillion BTUs of renewable energy were produced in Michigan, and in 2016 that number slightly decreased to 194.6. However, the 2016 production rate is almost double the amount of renewable energy that that was being produced in 2000; in 2000 110.5 trillion BTUs of renewable energy was produced.

In the state of Michigan, the types of energy that make up renewable energy include biomass, solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric energy. Despite increases in consumption, carbon-based energy sources are still consumed far more than renewable energy sources.

While the production of carbon-based energy sources in Michigan is far less than the amount consumed, there is still clearly a heavy reliance on these energy sources. Additionally, renewable energy is consumed more in Michigan than produced (click here to view consumption rates in our last post). With carbon-based energy source consumption and renewable energy source consumption both outweighing the amount produced in the state, it would make sense, on multiple levels, for energy policies to shift toward further encouragement, and enforcement, of creating more renewable energy production sources in the state. Not only would such policies mean increased production of clean energy, but it would also mean decreased reliance on carbon-based energy and energy sources produced outside of the state.

Carbon-Based Energy Sources Continue to Dominate Michigan’s Energy Consumption

In the State of Michigan, petroleum is the most highly consumed form of energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2016, 881.4 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU)s of petroleum were consumed in the State of Michigan. This number represents a continued increase of usage since 2012, when it was reported that 787.2 trillion BTUs were consumed. Prior to 2012, use of petroleum remained steady between 2000 and 2005 at about 990 trillion BTUs and then began to drop to the 2012 consumption low point. In the context of this post, petroleum represents the use of motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, residual fuel and jet fuel. The pattern of decline, then resurgence, is one that follows the economic fortunes of the state with the Great Recession followed by a slow climb out of recession since about 2012.

In the State of Michigan, petroleum is the most highly consumed form of energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2016, 881.4 trillion British Thermal Units (BTU)s of petroleum were consumed in the State of Michigan. This number represents a continued increase of usage since 2012, when it was reported that 787.2 trillion BTUs were consumed. Prior to 2012, use of petroleum remained steady between 2000 and 2005 at about 990 trillion BTUs and then began to drop to the 2012 consumption low point. In the context of this post, petroleum represents the use of motor gasoline, distillate fuel oil, residual fuel and jet fuel. The pattern of decline, then resurgence is one that follows the economic fortunes of the state with the Great Recession followed by a slow climb out of recession since about 2012.

Next to petroleum, natural gas was the most commonly consumed energy source. In 2016, 675.9 trillion BTUs were consumed in the State of Michigan. This is a decrease from 763.8 trillion BTUS is 2014 and a larger overall decrease of 854.8 trillion BTUs consumed in 2000, this form of energy remains the second most consumed in the State of Michigan. This is not surprising though, as most of the energy produced in Michigan is natural gas. Here though we are discussing consumption.

The consumption of renewable energy sources in Michigan has steadily increased since 2000, with 208.7 trillion BTUs being consumed in 2016. In 2000, 118.4 trillion BTUs of renewable energy was consumed in Michigan.

The type of renewable energy sources consumed in Michigan include solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal energy sources. Wood and waste biomass and wind energy are the type of renewable energy sources consumed the most in Michigan.

Of the renewable energy sources consumed in Michigan, biomass has the highest consumption rate at 85.6 trillion BTUs in 2016, according to the EIA. Biomass includes organic matter such as wood or crop waste. Consumption of biomass as an energy source has been increasing since 2000 when the consumption was 68.9 trillion BTUs.

The consumption of geothermal as an energy source steadily increased from 2000 to 2011, (from 1.2 trillion BTUs to 5.1 trillion BTUs) and has since leveled off, with 5.2 trillion BTUs being consumed in 2016.

Solar and hydroelectric are the lowest consumed renewable energy sources in Michigan. According to the EIA, 1 trillion BTUs of solar energy consumed in Michigan in 2016; this is an increase from the 0.2 trillion BTUs consumed in 2000. The consumption of hydroelectric energy has yet to reach 1 trillion BTUs. In 2000 0.3 trillion BTUs was consumed and in 2016 0.2 trillion BTUs was consumed. These numbers fluctuated between those time frames though, with the highest consumption of hydroelectric energy being in 2003 at 0.8 trillion BTUs. Overall renewables represent a very small, though slightly increasing proportion of energy consumed.

In 2008 Michigan enacted a renewable energy standard that required the state retail electricity providers, such as DTE, to generate at least 10 percent of their energy sources from renewable energy; that requirement has since been increased to 12.5 percent to be met by 2019. According to DTE, their current residential electric fuel mix is made up of 9.8 percent renewable energy sources. In a future post we hope to further explore the electric fuel mix percentages; we are currently inquiring about time series data.

Overall, we see that consumption of carbon-based energy sources such as coal and petroleum have been decreasing over time, while the consumption of renewable energy sources has been increasing at a slow rate. The data presented here tend to indicate that carbon dioxide producing fossil fuels are likely to continue to dominate energy consumption for many decades, unless Michigan policy makers act on the dangers of climate change to the state’s future environment, economy and children.

 

Metro-Detroit Sees Lower Unemployment Rates

  • The State and City of Detroit’s unemployment rates decreased at the monthly levels;
  • Regionally, September 2018 unemployment rates are lower than the prior year;
  • Housing prices continue to rise in Metro-Detroit.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for September of 2017 and 2018. In September of 2018 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.5, with St. Clair County having the second highest regional unemployment rate 3.9. Livingston and Washtenaw counties were the only two in the region with unemployment rates below 3 in September of 2018. The unemployment rate for Livingston County was 2.9, and the unemployment rate for Washtenaw County was 2.8.

When comparing 2017 and 2018, every county in the region experienced a decline in the unemployment rate. Monroe County experienced the largest decline, with the September 2017 unemployment rate being 5.5 and the September 2018 unemployment rate being 3.6.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for September of 2017 and 2018. In September of 2018 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.5, with St. Clair County having the second highest regional unemployment rate 3.9. Livingston and Washtenaw counties were the only two in the region with unemployment rates below 3 in September of 2018. The unemployment rate for Livingston County was 2.9, and the unemployment rate for Washtenaw County was 2.8.

When comparing 2017 and 2018, every county in the region experienced a decline in the unemployment rate. Monroe County experienced the largest decline, with the September 2017 unemployment rate being 5.5 and the September 2018 unemployment rate being 3.6.

The above chart shows the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $124,770 in August 2018; this was $530 higher than the average family dwelling price in July. The August 2018 price was an increase of $7,010 from August of 2017 and an increase of $15,110 from August of 2016, an increase of $21,020 from August of 2016 and increase of $26,050 from August of 2014.

Turkeys, Chickens and Ducks

As Thanksgiving approaches it is worth noting that our state has had a great success in expanding wild turkey populations across the state from near extinction in 1900 to over 200,000 birds across the state nowadays. All but the most densely populated areas of Southeastern Michigan have wild turkeys. And now they will find many cities are allowing their domesticated cousins—chickens. And at least one has added ducks.

Across Southeastern Michigan there are 30 communities that allow for residents to house chickens on their property, according to recent research conducted by the Detroit Free Press. These communities have various ways of allowing residents to have the chickens on their property. For example, in the City of Warren residents are allowed to have three hens and pay a $10 registration fee to have the chickens. In the City of Berkley though restrictions are bit tighter, with only five permits available for residents to have backyard chickens.

It is within the purview of each community as to whether or not they want to allow backyard chickens and to what extent they will be allowed. This local control comes from a rule the Michigan Agriculture Commission adopted in 2014 that essentially states not everyone can claim rights under the Right to Farm Act. The rule is intended to protect the overall goal of the Right to Farm Act, which is to protect industrial sized farmers in rural communities. The local control aspect of backyard livestock and poultry allows more suburban and urban communities to decide what is best for their community and residents. As noted above some communities only allow a certain number of permits to be distributed, while others require a fee to be paid, and only a certain number of hens to be owned by an individual. While there are 30 communities in Southeastern Michigan that allow residents to own chickens, there are 21 that have banned them. Ann Arbor recently added ducks to the list of animals backyard farmers can cultivate.

Reasons individuals want to house chickens in their backyard typically links back to wanting the chicken’s eggs. Hens can lay up to five eggs per week. Reasons communities cite for wanting to ban them include the allegation that the chickens, and their feed, may attract rats and that the hens themselves may be a noise nuisance.