Life Expectancy Declines in Michigan, US

The average life expectancy for Americans decreased in 2020, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the same goes for Michiganders.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, which is run by the Centers for Disease Control, the average life expectancy of an American in 2019 was 79 years of age and by 2020 that decreased 77 years of age. In 2021, the National Center for Health Statistics reported the average life expectancy of an American decreased to 76 years of age. For Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health did not have data for 2021, but for 2020 the average life expectancy of males and females, both white and black, declined.

The first chart below shows that between 2019 and 2020 the life expectancy for females declined from 80.6 years of age to 79.2; for males the average life expectancy declined from 75.7 years of age to 73.6. Prior to the reported 2022 average life expectancy ages, the last times they were as low was in 2002 for females (79 years of age) and 1999 for males (73.4 years of age).

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the top 10 contributing factors to death for those who live in Michigan in 2020 were:

•Heart Disease (117,087 deaths)

•Cancer (21,118)

•COVID-19 (11,362)

•Accidents (6,044)

•Stroke (5,873)

•Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease (5,644)

•Alzheimer’s Disease (4,860)

•Diabetes (3,408)

•Kidney Disease (1,940)

•And Influenza, Pneumonia (1,880)

While we know the leading causes of death, it is believed by the CDC that the pandemic likely drove the recent decline in the average life expectancy for Americans, across the board. In Michigan, COVID-19 itself attributed to 11,362 deaths in 2020. We also know that the number of deaths related to heart disease, accidents, influenza/pneumonia, kidney disease, diabetes and stroke increased between 2019 and 2020, as did the drug overdose rates.

So, while the numbers above help frame the story as to why Michigan’s average life expectancy is decreasing, digging into the data another way also tells another story.

The Michigan Department of Community Health publicly presents data on the average life expectancy broken down by both sex and race. As shown above, overall, females have long had a higher life expectancy over males. However, when further breaking down the data, we see that black females and white males in Michigan have had nearly the same life expectancy since 1910. In 2020, the average life expectancy for black females in Michigan was 73.3 years of age, a decrease of 3.3 years from 2019. The average life expectancy of white men in Michigan was 75.3 years of age in 2020, a decrease of 1.3 years from 2019. White females in Michigan experienced a 0.9 decrease in average life expectancy, which was the smallest decrease of the four groups. It was black males who had the largest decrease in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020 in Michigan at 4.8 years; in 2020 the average life expectancy for black males in Michigan was reported at 64.9 years of age. The last time the average life expectancy for black males was that low, or lower, was in 1995 when it was reported to be 64.4 years of age.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, the top leading causes of death for black males in Michigan in 2020 were:

•Heart Disease (2,430 deaths)

•COVID-19 (1,610)

•Malignant neoplasms (1,272)

•Accidents (799)

•Assault ( 512)

Note that assault is not even among the overall the top 10 causes for Michigan citizens overall.

While we mentioned the effect COVID-19 has had on life expectancy, as well as drug overdoses and the increase mortality rates related to other diseases, it should also be noted that number of individuals with access to health care has increased in recent years. So, as the average life expectancy is decreasing, more individuals are receiving greater access to health care, an odd result, but probably the effect of COVID has overtaken the benefits of better care.

Overall, decline in life expectancy for all sexes and races is concerning as it means people are dying earlier than they should be.

Inflation Puts Strain on Food Banks, Families in Southeastern Michigan

Rising inflation is hitting people all over the metropolitan area. For example, food banks are experiencing increased use, according to local media outlets. In the Metro-Detroit area major food banks include Gleaners Community Bank and Forgotten Harvest; these organizations not only supply food to those in need via their mobile food pantries and sponsored distribution events; they also provide food to soup kitchens, other organizations’ food pantries and other programs. According to MichiganRadio.org, in March of 2022 Gleaners Community Food Bank had about 13,000 visits to its mobile food pantries; the average number of visits in the six months prior to that was about 9,000. Feeding America West Michigan experienced a 34 percent increase in visits between February and March of 2022, according to the April 2022 Michigan Radio. A recent Model D article states that the Capuchin Soup Kitchen experienced a 25 percent increase in visits in the last year. Additionally, the same Model D Media article reports that Forgotten Harvest recorded a 30 percent increase month-to-month between April, May and June of this year. According to the article, Forgotten Harvest served 16,000 individuals in the month of June— 10,400 more than in the same month last year.

The charts below show just what inflation means to the average person. For example, in the first chart below, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the cost of meat, poultry, fish and eggs has increased by 8.4 percent in the Metro-Detroit area between July of 2021 and July of 2022. Dairy has increased by about 20 percent in that time frame and cereal and bakery goods have increased by about 19.3 percent. As we know, not only are food prices increasing but so is the cost of housing, utilities and gas. Gasoline has experienced the largest consumer price index increase in the last year at 63.9 percent.

Another way to view inflation is to understand how the value of a dollar, or $100, has changed. The chart below uses $100 in June of 2000 as a reference point to show inflation over the last 22 years. So, for example, $171.46 today would be the same as $100 in June of 2000. In other words, the purchasing power of the dollar has continually decreased, except between 2008 and 2009. Between 2020 and 2022 the purchasing power of the dollar has had the largest decrease since 2000. Between 2020 and 2022 there was a $21.52 difference in the power of the dollar. What you could buy for $149.74 in 2020 increased to $171.46. And again, these dollar figures are comparable to what $100 would be worth in 2000.

The data and anecdotal stories show just how inflation, coupled with supply chain issues, are impacting families throughout Michigan, Metro-Detroit and beyond. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Food Bank Council of Michigan received a $50 million one-time allocation in the 2022-23 State Budget to support ensuring families across Michigan could access food. These funds will increase infrastructure to better serve Michigan’s northern counties and Upper Peninsula through decreasing transportation expenses. The funding will also be used to conduct a Hunger Study, providing data to align federal, state and commodity programs to meet residents’ needs. According to the Food Bank Council, it is paying 40 percent more to keep up with food pantry demands across the state.
Additional allocations to food banks will certainly help with the increased use in food pantries, but the State Budget funding was a one-time allocation and the duration of the increased use in food pantries is unknown. The state, and federal government, though are working toward food security through other avenues as well. For example, about 1.3 million people from about 700,000 households in Michigan receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the state’s Food Assistance Program. Since the COVID pandemic began, all household have received the maximum benefits allowed for their size, and this practice continues. Following the May 2021 SNAP benefit amount increase, households of the following sizes are receiving the corresponding max benefit amount:

·One Person: $250  
·Two Persons: $459  
·Three Persons: $658  
·Four Persons: $835  
·Five Persons: $992  
·Six Persons: $1,190  
·Seven Persons: $1,316  
·Eight Persons: $1,504  
In August, households receiving SNAP benefits had an additional $95 added to their Bridge card to help further combat the affect inflation is having on food costs. How long this will last is unknown as federal approval of the increased SNAP benefits is necessary every month.
Schools are also working to create greater food security for students but either adopting a universal free lunch policy for all students, or at least sending free and reduced lunch applications to all households in the district. According to the Kids Count Data Center, 715,000 of Michigan public K-12 students qualified for free or reduced lunches’ income bracket in 2021. During that time though, all students—nationwide—received free lunches as part of a federal program implemented in the height of the COVID pandemic. This school year though, that policy does not exist and Michigan does not have a universal school lunch policy. Detroit Public Schools implemented one though, as have some others throughout the story. For the many districts that do not have such a policy, free and reduced lunch applications are being sent to all homes so eligible students can receive the service. For reduced meals, breakfast is $0.30 and lunch is $0.40. Income eligibility information can be found here.

We know that food banks are meeting, and serving, just some of the thousands upon thousands of individuals being impacted by the affects of inflation. However, long-term assistance to such food banks remains unknown, as direct long-term funding from state entities isn’t certain, and with economic concerns growing, donations may decrease. Food pantries serve a vital role in our community, as do programs such as SNAP and the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program. Food insecurity is an issue hundreds of thousands Americans face daily and long-term strategies to create food security need stronger framework and better funding.

To find a food bank in Michigan click here.

Housing Prices Begin to Stabilize, CPI Takes A Dip in Metro-Detroit

Michigan’s unemployment continues to decrease, for the tenth straight month, and the labor force in the state continues to grow. This year is looking much rosier than in 2020 when great uncertainty riddled the state, and the country. With job recovery following the peak of the pandemic, and an increase in revenues from the sales and use tax and federal funding the state is predicting about a $5 million surplus. While such a surplus can viewed as a sign of improved economic times, we must also recognize inflation is on the rise, and uncertainty still looms with COVID and the war in Ukraine. Recognizing that inflation is hitting the homes of most, if not all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was proposed sending $500 to working Michigan families in attempt to help ease the strain on our pockets. The Republic led majority legislature is discussing a $2.5 billion plan that would cut taxes. What will happen remains unknown, especially as the project surplus is just an estimate.

But the data below does tell that story that Michigan’s economy is on the rise while the costs of goods and services is also on the rise.

The chart below provides a more detailed look at how unemployment rates are currently, compared to year ago, at the local level. Across all seven counties in Southeastern Michigan unemployment rates were lower in July of 2022 as compared to July of 2021. Wayne County experienced the largest decrease in that year, with the unemployment rate decreasing by 4.9 percent. While Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate in the region in July of 2021 (9.6%), it did not have the highest rate in July of 2022. Rather, Monroe County currently had the highest unemployment rate in the region in July of 2022 at 5.4 percent. Livingston County continued to have the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 2.2 percent.


The charts below show the percent changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on a month-to-month basis and a year-to-year basis for each month in years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 in the Midwest Region. The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, energy, housing and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined group of goods and averaging them.

The first  chart below highlights how the CPI changed on a month-to-month basis between 2019 and 2022. Currently in 2022, the region’s prices were down 0.2 percent. The highlights for the change include:

•Food prices increasing 1.2 percent for the month of July (prices for food at home increased 1.5 percent while prices for food outside of the home increased by 0.8 percent)
•Gas prices declining 8.8 percent, which contributed to the energy index decline of 5.7 percent
•Overall, prices without considering food and energy prices, rose by 0.3 percent from the month prior.

When examining the second chart, which shows how prices changed on a year-to-year basis,  we see how prices remain higher than previous years but that there was a decline in the CPI for the month of July between 2021 and 2022.

In July of 2022 the CPI was reported to be 8.6 percent above what it was the year prior (this is lower than the 9.5 percent increased experienced between June of 2021 and 2022). Contributing factors to the continued increase in the CPI include:

•Food prices increasing 12.4 percent over the last year
•Energy prices increasing 34.1 percent over the last year.
•New and used motor vehicles increasing 8.4 percent
•And household furnishings and operations increasing 10.8 percent.
While home prices in Metro-Detroit continue to increase from one month to the next, the rate at which they are increasing is beginning to taper off. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $172,560 in July of 2022; this was a mere $170 higher than the average family dwelling price in June. While the month-to-month increase has slowed down, a look at data from year’s prior is a reminder just how much the average price of a home has increased. Between July of 2022 and 2021 the average price increased $19,960 and between July of 2022 and 2014 the price increased $75,220.


Parks Need Priority in Funding to be Sustained

While park land is plentiful in Southeastern Michigan, its upkeep and protection is something necessary to keep it accessible to the public. As noted in our last post, park land throughout Michigan, and Southeastern Michigan, is made accessible through government entities, non-profits and/or private organizations. The funding of park lands and public spaces by non-profit and private organizations is at the will of the organizations’ board members and owners. However, funding and protecting park land through government entities is often more complex.

Government owned and operated parks throughout Michigan are funded primarily through tax dollars, but user fees, grants and donations also aid in their funding. At the state level, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), about 97 percent of funding for parks operations and maintenance is generated by user fees and royalty revenues. According to the MDNR, the breakdown is as follows:

  • 51%: Camping and lodging reservation fees
  • 26%: Recreation Passport sales
  • 15%: State-owned, oil, gas and mineral royalty revenues – which feed the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund – (15%)
  • 5%: Concessions, shelter reservations and miscellaneous sources

Michigan’s General Fund tax dollars provide the remaining three percent of state parks funding.

At the County level, funding differs from one county to the next. For example, in Wayne County there is a millage (0.2459 mills) that funds county parks and distributes money to local communities for their parks. This millage means that the County’s general fund is not expected to make room for parks funding, but if those elected to represent Wayne County residents chose to do so in the general fund they can. Instead, through this additional millage that was voted on by the people (in 2016 and renewed in 2020) there is a dedicated funding source for a guaranteed amount of time. Through a parks millage, funding is dedicated to the creation, operation and/or upkeep of a park. When parks are funded through just the general fund the amount of money allocated to the parks, the programs and/or upkeep can vastly differ from year-to-year depending on the priorities of the elected bodies.

By simply putting a parks millage on the ballot, Wayne County showed that park improvements were a priority of theirs, and with 76 percent of voters supporting the 2020 ballot initiative this also showed that Wayne County residents also view parks as a priority.

In addition to Wayne County having a millage that helps support its parks and recreation opportunities so does Oakland, Washtenaw and St. Clair counties. In Southeastern Michigan, Monroe, Macomb and Livingston counties do not have additional funding mechanisms to support their parks.

Despite Monroe, Macomb and Livingston counties not having county-wide millages to help fund parks, there are cities in Livingston and Macomb counties that have millages to help support their parks.

For example, in Livingston County the Howell Area Parks and Recreation is supported by a 0.75 millage. This millage not only created the recreation agency that services Genoa, Marion, Oceola and Howell townships it also finances the parks and services the residents of these townships use and rely on.

In Macomb County, the cities of Roseville and Eastpointe created a joint recreation authority through a 1 mill tax levy that was originally approved by voters 2011. This millage allows the authority to operate, offer services (which produce revenue, also allowing the authority to operate) and maintain and update facilities and parks. Municipalities such as Washington and Macomb townships also have millages (one for each township, they do not have a joint authority) that support their parks and their recreation opportunities.

So, while tax dollars are a primary source of funding for our parks, and the opportunities they provide, the commitment to their allocation varies. Additionally, commitment to the funding of public parks comes from other sources as well. For example, there are the revenues generated from their use (fee structures differ from one park to the next, one program to the next and one municipality to the next), donations offered from various people and groups and grants that municipalities receive.

The grants that municipalities can apply for to support their parks are rather plentiful; the MDNR, the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation are just some of many organizations that allocate grand fund to support parks and recreation opportunities. However, grants are often a one-time allocation of funds and cannot be relied on to ensure a park, its staffing, its programs and more will continue from one year to the next.

To ensure the park land, and the programs associated with it, we all benefit from remains accessible and useable we must create dedicated funding mechanisms. Millages are one source, but must be approved by voters. And, while general fund dollars flow into a municipality on an annual basis, the allocation of those funds differs annually.

Park Land is Plentiful in Southeastern Michigan

In Southeastern Michigan there are more than 2,300 parks which are owned and operated by either the federal government, State of Michigan, a local municipality, the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority or a private entity. The footprint of these parks covers more than 214,000 acres and much of these parks are concentrated in the more heavily populated areas of Southeastern Michigan, such as Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. For example, in the City of Detroit there are 359 total parks, which range in size, type (passive, active, trails, etc.) and ownership (city, state, private).  Parks are viewed as an essential service because they increase economic value, provide health and environmental benefits and create an aspect of community, allowing for greater socialization. Furthermore, understanding how accessible parks and recreation amenities are can help communities prioritize improvements that serve more people.

In Southeastern Michigan 1,847 of the parks in the region, or 80 percent, are owned and operated by local municipalities. For example, of the 359 parks in Detroit about 350 are owned and operated by the City itself, the others are owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources or private entities. Private entities in the region own and operate the second highest number of parks in the region, followed by counties. The way in which counties prioritize parks in the region varies greatly. For example, in Macomb County there are only two county parks—Freedom Hill, which serves as an entertainment center, and the Macomb Orchard Trail, which is a 26 mile long multiuse path that is overseen by a board comprised of a county representative and one person from each community that also pays into the system. In Oakland County there are 13 parks and in Washtenaw County there are well over 20 different parks, many of which are nature preserves.

Public parks are largely funded by public monies and each municipality’s priorities are reflected in how their dollars are spent. So, in the case of Washtenaw and Oakland counties, for example, we see that the counties themselves place a higher priority on access to parks. The emphasis on parks and recreation opportunities in communities can not only be seen by how the general fund dollars are allocated to such amenities, but also by if there are additional taxes voted on by residents to further increase parks and recreation amenities and access to them.

While funding allocations to parks differ from one county, and community, to the next, we do know that access to parks in the region is easily attainable for most. As noted, majority of the parks are concentrated in more heavily populated areas, but according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Government’s (SEMCOG) 2019 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, parks and recreation opportunities are accessible within a 10-minute drive for nearly every household in the region. Additionally, according to the study, a 10-minute bike ride provides access to parks for 89 percent of households in the region. The study does show that for 42 percent of households in the region access to parks within 10 minutes of walking or use public transportation is not attaintable, posing a barrier of access to those who may not have a reliable use of their transportation. The lack of a strong public transportation system in the region does prove to be problematic for those who want/need reliable access to parks, especially the region’s largest parks. Since larger parks are located in less populated areas those without reliable transportation of their own, who may rely on public transportation, will have greater difficulty in reaching the larger parks. SEMCOG’s Access to Core Services report state that 7 percent of all households and 13 percent of transit-dependent households are within a 30-minute transit trip to a park greater than 200 acres in size.

The maps below highlight where parks are located in the region.

As noted, parks are viewed as an essential amenity within a community. However, funding to maintain and improve parks and recreation amenities is also vital to ensure such access. While we know majority of the region can access parks and recreation opportunities currently, we will further look into some of the funding structures that allow for such access in a later post and evaluate their long-term viability. We will also look deeper into the access of parks as it relates to the socioeconomic makeups of communities in Southeastern Michigan.

Heat Islands and Their Existence in Metro-Detroit

Trees—we literally can’t live without them. While the oxygen they provide is critical, they do much more. We won’t get into all the deep-rooted details here today, but we will address how a healthy tree canopy can decrease heat island effects. A heat island, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, is an area where heat is intensified due to structures, such as buildings and roads, that absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat far more than natural landscapes, such as forests and bodies of water. Urban areas, where these structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become “islands” of higher temperatures relative to the outlying areas. Temperatures in such heat islands can be 1 to 7 degrees higher than neighboring areas. The Detroit metropolitan area contains heat islands.

According to Vibrant Cities Lab, the City of Detroit has a 31 percent tree canopy coverage, and the American Forests organization recommends Detroit have at least a 40 percent tree canopy coverage. Without a healthy tree canopy residents of heat island areas often face:

•             Increased energy consumption

•             Elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases

•             Increased risk to heat related illnesses

American Forests also created a Tree Equity Score data set that describes the equity of tree cover across urban areas within the United States. The data assigns a “tree equity score” to each census block group within a city based on various factors. The tree canopy gap, defined as the potential amount of tree canopy in a given area minus the existing tree canopy is the basis for the score. The score is calculated using local physical and socioeconomic factors such as income, employment, age, race, and health, and the severity of the existing urban heat island. The Tree Equity Score is on a scale of 0-100, with a lower score meaning there is a greater priority for closing the tree canopy gap. American Forests’ goal is to see every block group have a score of 75.

METRO DETROIT TREE EQUITY SCORES

The map above shows the Tree Equity scores for much of Metro-Detroit at the municipal level. In Southeastern Michigan, at the municipal level, no community with a Tree Equity score has one less than 59, which is Carelton in Monroe County. Bloomfield Hills has a Tree Equity Score of 100, as does Bingham Farms, the highest in the region. Detroit has a score of 80, which is higher than the recommended score of 75, but a deeper look at the Detroit’s neighborhoods shows that some blocks have a score as low as 36.

According to research from Portland State University, the Science Museum of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University, redlined neighborhoods are hotter than the highest-rated neighborhoods by an average of almost 5 degrees. According to the article “Residential Housing Segregation and Urban Tree Canopy in 37 US Cities,”  23 percent of the redlined areas in 37 major cities (including Detroit) have a healthy tree canopy, as opposed to the 43 percent tree coverage in areas that were not redlined. 

While efforts are underway in Detroit, and the Metro region, to increase tree coverage heat islands, and the concerns around them, still exist. The maps below from the City of Detroit show the heat vulnerability index by Detroit Census tracts and the prioritized Census tracts in Detroit where tree planting should occur. The Census tracts with the highest vulnerability scores (6.6-7.7) also are also the ones being prioritized for tree plantings. Why? Well, simply put, more trees in a neighborhood mean a cooler neighborhood. It also means improved air quality and can also assist with improved water quality.

With climate change not only happening, but accelerating, priorities must be placed programs such as increased tree plantings in urban areas, green infrastructure, solar panels, windmills and electric vehicles.

Broadband Not Accessible for All in Metro-Detroit

Even in the age of the internet, accessibility is limited for many, including in Southeastern Michigan.

According to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), there are about 1.6 billion homes in the seven county region with broadband and about 250,000 without it. In other words about 87 percent of homes in the region have internet and 13 percent are without it.

Access to broadband connectivity is two-fold though.

In a small percentage of the region there is no connectivity. In Southeastern Michigan, 99 percent of homes have access to broadband and 1 percent do not; this equals to out about 1.9 homes having access to broadband and about 10,000 not having access. The first map below highlights where any kind of access to the internet lacks. Each county in the region is affected, with very small neighborhoods in even some of the most populated areas (Detroit, Canton, West Bloomfield, etc.) experiencing some dead zones. However, the more rural areas in the region (north Macomb County, western Livingston and western Washtenaw counties) and several areas throughout St. Clair and Macomb counties) have much larger areas where access to broadband does not exist. While the land area where access is lacking looks large, the population that lives in these areas must also be considered. As noted, overall, there are about 10,000 people who do not have access to the internet due to service not existing where they live.

The first chart below highlights those who are underserved by broadband, which not only includes those who do not have access to broadband at all but also those who do not have access to highspeed internet (meaning they may have access to slower internet that does not allow for extensive streaming, downloading, etc.). St. Clair County has the highest percentage of homes that are underserved at  7.1 percent, followed by Monroe County where 2.5 percent of homes are underserved. Oakland County has the lowest percentage of homes that are underserved at 0.4 percent.

***All data in this post is provided by SEMCOG***

While the existence of broadband infrastructure is a concern, so is overall access, especially for those who have limited access to the infrastructure. The chart below shows the percentage of homes that do not use the internet. Wayne County has the highest percentage of homes that do not use the internet at 19 percent and, conversely, Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of homes that do not use the internet at 7 percent.

Factors that play into a home being able to obtain broadband include income, age and race. For example, in Wayne County, 49 percent of households with an average income of $20,000 a year or less do not have the internet. This income bracket has the highest percentage of homes without internet across the region. When examining aging groups that data shows that 33 percent of the 65-years-of-age and older population does not have the internet; this is the age bracket with the highest percentage of individuals without access. And, finally, 13 percentage of the black population in Wayne County does not use the internet. Blacks have  the highest percentage of non-usage in Wayne County, and in every other county in the region.

Access to the internet is vital for many. This was fully demonstratated when COVID made remote work and school a necessity. As our society continues to evolve, access to this lifeline must become more accessibility to the population despite their location, income, race and age. As the data shows, race, income and age certainly play a factor in accessibility so breaking down those barriers must be a priority, as should developing stronger infrastructure in more rural areas. 

Locally, Washtenaw County has committed more than $13 million in American Rescue Act Funding to expand affordable and equitable high-speed broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved communities. This is part of a larger investment by Washtenaw County which is focused on connecting every to high-speed broadband infrastructure.

Additionally, the City of Detroit is creating a test fiber-to-the-home connectivity project in Hope Village. This project will connect about 2,000 homes to affordable service. This project is also being funded by the American Rescue Act.

With millions of dollars dispersed to every county in American Rescue Act Funding, this should certainly become a priority for more places than just Washtenaw County.

Inflation Continues to Impact Standard of Living

Michigan’s unemployment continues to decrease, for the tenth straight month, and the labor force in the state continues to grow. This year is looking much rosier than in 2020 when great uncertainty riddled the state, and the country. With job recovery following the peak of the pandemic, and an increase in revenues from the sales and use tax and federal funding the state is predicting about a $5 million surplus. While such a surplus can viewed as a sign of improved economic times, we must also recognize inflation is on the rise, and uncertainty still looms with COVID and the war in Ukraine. Recognizing that inflation is hitting the homes of most, if not all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was proposed sending $500 to working Michigan families in attempt to help ease the strain on our pockets. The Republic led majority legislature is discussing a $2.5 billion plan that would cut taxes. What will happen remains unknown, especially as the project surplus is just an estimate.

But the data below does tell that story that Michigan’s economy is on the rise while the costs of goods and services is also on the rise.

Unemployment rates in Michigan and the City of Detroit remain lower than they were during the peak of the pandemic, and recent data shows a continued trend of them remaining fairly stable.

In March of 2022 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan declined to 4.4 percent from the 5.3 percent it was reported at for February of 2022. In March of 2021 the unemployment rate was reported at 5.2 percent, which was only slightly higher than it was reported at a year later.

For the City of Detroit, the unemployment rate for March of 2022 was 10 percent, an decrease from the 12.2 percent it was reported at the month prior. When comparing it to the March of 2021 unemployment rate (9.3 percent) we see that the rate was slightly lower last year than this year.

As noted above, unemployment rates, typically, remain lower now than a year ago, and certainly two years ago. When examining the data at the county level for March 2022 and March 2021 we see that each county in Southeastern Michigan had a lower unemployment rate in 2022. Wayne County experienced the largest decline between 2021 and 2021; in March of 2021 Wayne County’s unemployment rate was 8.5 and by 2022 it declined to 5.8. Wayne County also had the highest unemployment rates in both March of 2021 and 2022.
The charts below show the percent changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on a month-to-month basis and a year-to-year basis for each month in years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 in the Midwest Region. The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, energy, housing and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined group of goods and averaging them.

The first  chart below highlights how the CPI changed on a month-to-month basis between 2019 and 2022. Currently in 2021, the region’s prices were  up 0.8 percent in April, with higher prices for:
•Public transportation and shelter (up 0.2 percent)
•New vehicles  (up 1 percent)
•The increased price was partially offset by lower prices for used cars and trucks and apparel
•Overall, prices without considering food and energy prices, rose by 0.4 percent from the month prior.
The energy prices did not increase overall from the month prior due to a 1.3 percent decline in gasoline prices of 1.3 percent, but there was a 3.1 percent increase in the index for natural gas and a 0.5 percent increase for the energy index.

Overall food prices did increase between March and April though at 1.3 percent, with food prices at home increasing 1.5 percent and food away from home increasing at 1.1 percent.

When examining the second chart, which shows how prices changed on a year-to-year basis,  we see how prices continue to increase in 2022, with the April year-to-year CPI being the among highest increase shown below. In fact, all of 2022 CPI changes have been the highest reported in several years.
In April of 2022 the CPI was reported to be 8.2 percent above what it was the year prior. Contributing factors to the continued increase in the CPI include
•Food prices increasing 11.2 percent over the last year
•Energy prices increasing 26.8 percent over the last year.
•New and used motor vehicles increasing 18.4 percent
•Shelter increasing 4.9 percent
•And household furnishings and operations increasing 10.8 percent.
Just as inflation continues to increase, so does the price of homes in the Metro Detroit area. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $166,060 in February of 2022; this was $2,720 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2022 price was an increase of $21,210 from February of 2021 and $72,640 from February of 2014.

Induced Abortions in Michigan: The Numbers

Recent news that that Roe v. Wade may be overturned in an upcoming US Supreme Court ruling has many examining how such a decision will affect individuals across the country. In Michigan, a 1931 law that defines abortion as a felony could go into affect. This 91-year-old law states that it is illegal to perform abortions in many circumstances, including in cases of rape and incest; it also states that it is illegal to use drugs to induce abortions.

Currently, with Roe v. Wade, still standing, women are legally able to obtain abortions in Michigan with some restrictions, including:

•That a patient must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided;

•What coverage, if any, an insurance policy provides (according to the Michigan Department of Community Health 96 percent of reported induced abortions had a self pay source of payment);

•The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided;

•An abortion may be performed at or after viability only if the patient’s life is endangered.

Not only would Michigan be one of at least 26 states where access to safe abortions would be heavily restricted, but thousands of women would be negatively impacted.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, there were 29,669 induced abortions in Michigan in 2020, which was a rate of 15.8 induced abortions per 1,000 Michigan women aged 15-44. This is the highest induced abortion rate in Michigan since 1993, when a rate of 16.1 induced abortions per 1,000 Michigan women aged 15-44 was performed.

When delving further into Michigan’s induced abortion data we see that majority of women were 25 years of age or older. According to the data, 32 percent of Michigan women who had an induced abortion were 30 years of age or older, and 31 percent of women were between the ages of 25-29. Eight percent of women who had an induced abortion were 20 years of age or younger.

Additionally, of those induced abortions performed in Michigan in 2020 nearly 90 percent were performed in freestanding outpatient surgical facilities. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were 30 facilities providing abortions in Michigan in 2017, and 21 of those were clinics. Also in 2017, about 87 percent of Michigan counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 35% of Michigan women lived in those counties.

The data presented in this post shows that many women have abortions for many reasons—including for their health and safety. Every year, the women who chose to have an induced abortion are able to receive one in legal surgical facilities and often pay for the procedure out-of-pocket, as highlighted above. With the possible overruling of Roe v. Wade, thousands of Michigan women, and women across the country, could very well lose the option to have a safe, and legal induced abortion.

In anticipation of the ruling, some options to safeguard legal and safe abortions are occurring: 1)Gov. Gretchen Whitmer filed a lawsuit in April of 2022 calling the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize that the Michigan constitution affords women reproductive rights and agency over their bodies. 2)Planned Parenthood has filed a similar lawsuit, through the Michigan Court of Claims, seeking to declare that the state’s constitution protects reproductive autonomy. 3)A petition drive launched by Reproductive Freedom for All seeks to amend the state constitution to affirm abortion rights. In order to place this on the November ballot 424,000 valid signatures are needed by mid-July. ●

Another means to safeguard abortion access in Michigan would be through approved legislation by the state legislature. Bills to repeal the 1931 ban have been introduced, but not brought forward for a vote.

Child Homelessness in Michigan is Real

Child homelessness in Michigan is real.

According to the University of Michigan, in more than 40 percent of Michigan’s schools more than 10 percent of students struggle with homelessness during the school year. Furthermore, it is believed that even those numbers are under reported in certain areas, including the City of Detroit. Detroit was estimated to have about a 4 percent homeless student rate for the 2020-21 school year, which was equivalent to about 1,700 students according to the US Department of Education’s Center for Educational Performance and Information. However, as noted, it is believed this number is under reported. While Detroit public schools had the highest total number of students estimated to be affected by homelessness, it was the Ypsilanti School District that had the highest percentage of homeless students in the region. According to the data, the Ypsilanti School District had the highest estimated homelessness rate for the 2020-21 school year at about 10 percent, which was equivalent to about 340 students. Oak Park Public Schools had the second highest percentage of homeless students for the 2020-21 school year at about 9 percent, which was equivalent to more than 340 students.

As shown in the maps above homelessness impacts students throughout the region, but those who live in more urban and/or rural districts are impacted more. While the Center for Educational Performance and Information reports the percentage of estimated homeless students, it does not breakdown the age groups most affected. But the 2022 report from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions Initiatives highlights that most homeless students are teenagers, Black, Native American and/or Hispanic and/or transgender.

This report further breaks down that the percentage of Black, Native American and Hispanic homeless students in Michigan in 2019 was 8 percent, 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively. Additionally, it was reported that about 25 percent of transgender youth in Michigan were homeless, according to the study.

While the data shows there are certain demographics that are more impacted by homelessness than others, it is clear that it impacts thousands upon thousands of students in Michigan—more than 22,000 to be exact. Many of these students are unaccompanied minors who don’t often access homeless shelters, or utilize public services. Policy shifts must occur to not only protect students from homelessness, but also provide greater safety nets for them to access healthcare, nutritional and housing services if they do experience homelessness. This means greater investment into K-12 programs, transitional foster care programs and stronger policies to prevent family homelessness.