Birth Rates Continue to Decline in Michigan

In 2017 Kent County had the highest birth rate per 10,000 people in the state of Michigan at 136.5. This means there were 8,684 live births in Kent County in 2017 with a population of 636,376. Wayne County had the second highest birth rate in the state at 131.9 live births per 10,000 people; this equates to 23,257 live births for a population of about 1.7 million. Of the 83 counties in Michigan 38 of them had live birth rates above 100 per 10,000 people in 2017. Additionally, in terms of the total number of live births Wayne County had the highest total with Oakland County having the second highest total at 13,184.

As the second map below shows, most of the state had between 13 and 4,660 live births in 2017. There were 12 counties where the total number of live births was below 100, with Keweenaw County having the lowest number of live births in 2017 at 13.  Keweenaw County is in the Upper Peninsula, and like Keweenaw County several of the other counties in the UP had less than 100 live births in 2017. On the opposite end of the range, there were only five counties in the state that had more than 4,660 live births, those counties being Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Genesee and Kent counties.

onitoring the number of births and birth rates in an area is important because it directly impacts policy and budgeting as it relates to education and health care. In the U.S., and in Michigan, the number of births are dropping. For example, in 2017 in Michigan there was a total of 111,507, which was about 2 percent lower than what it was the previous year. As Michigan’s population ages but birth rates decline some are concerned that long-term this will affect the state’s economy and the talent pool.

Hamtramck Schools Have Highest Percentage of Students Eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch

A few weeks ago Drawing Detroit explored how many students are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services by county. With the percentage of students being eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services being a proxy measure of poverty, we wanted to dig deeper into the data to see what areas of each county had the highest and lowest percentage of services eligible for the service. 

Those who are eligible for free or reduced lunch prices are children in households that receive benefits from the Food Assistance Program or Family Independence Program. For example, in 2018, a family of four that has an annual income of about $33,000 or less was eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.

Hamtramck Public Schools may not be the most populated school district in Southeastern Michigan, but it has the highest percentage of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. According to the Michigan Department of Education, out of the 3,300 students enrolled in Hamtramck Public Schools, 3,115 are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. This translates to 94 percent of the school population being eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. In total, there are only seven school districts in the region where 80 percent or more of the students in the district are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. Of those seven districts, four are in Wayne County (Hamtramck Public Schools, Detroit Public Schools, Highland Park Public Schools and Inkster Public Schools), two are in Macomb County (Mount Clemens Public School District and Van Dyke Public Schools) and one is in Oakland County (Oak Park Public Schools).

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are 14 school districts in the region where 20 percent or less of the student population is eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. Northville Public Schools has the lowest percentage of students eligible at 6.5 percent. In total, of the 7,355 students enrolled in the school district, 483 are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch benefits. Macomb and St. Clair counties are the only two in the region with no school districts with less than 20 percent of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services. In St. Clair County, all the school districts have between 20 and 60 percent of students eligible and in Macomb County, majority of the school districts are in that same range. The exception in Macomb County is the Mount Clemens School District and the inner-ring Detroit school districts, such as Van Dyke Public Schools, Warren Consolidated Schools and others that are near the City of Detroit. In the more rural school districts to the west (in Washtenaw and Livingston counties) nearly all the school districts have less than 40 percent of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services.

With majority of the school districts in the region having at least 20 percent or more of students eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch services, this highlights a need for more investment in our children, ensuring they have the resources mentally and physically grow. As noted earlier, this data also relates to the poverty levels in the region and further highlights how it affects our youth. 

Water Rates Vary Due to Location, Use

Water rates throughout Southeastern Michigan vary greatly, despite the fact that most communities in the region receive their water through the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The GLWA was approved by Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties’ Board of Commissioners in October of 2014 and on January 1, 2016 the regional authority became fully operational, ultimately as a result of Detroit’s bankruptcy. The county boards’ approval allowed the authority to form and for the GLWA to lease water and sewer infrastructure from the City of Detroit for 40 years at a cost of $50 million a year. The approval of the GLWA also meant that all Detroit Water and Sewer wholesale customers, with the exception of the City of Detroit (127 in all, 75% of which are in the tri-county area) are now customers of the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The Detroit/GLWA system consists of:

  • 640 miles of large water and sewer pipes
  • Five water treatment facilities
  • One major sewage treatment plant

The map below shows the commodity charge rates for Fiscal Year 2020, as approved by the GLWA. In total, the GLWA represents 127 different communities, not all are shown in the map below though because some receive their services through the smaller water authorities, such as the South Oakland County Water Authority (which is a member of the GLWA and then services communities in that area).   As the map shows, Bruce Township has the highest rate at $75.53 per million cubic feet (MCF). However, majority of the communities in the region that participate in the GLWA have commodity charge rates that range between $4.28 per mcf and $18.53 per mcf. The City of Ecorse has the lowest rate at $4.28 per mcf.

According to the GLWA, the charges vary across communities for a number of reasons. Of course, communities are in charge of their end rates but the GLWA starts with setting their commodity prices by creating a water budget, which is capped at a 4 percent increase each year. This budget is reflective of operating expenses, the cost of infrastructure and other costs. The GLWA then looks at the usage patterns of each community and where it is located in terms of its elevation and distance from a water plant. Location matters because the more electricity that is used to pump water to a community the more a city’s commodity charge will be. So, for example, Bruce Township is in the northern part of Macomb County so transportation is farther. Additionally, it does not have a storage facility (such as a water tower) that would allow it to store water at cheaper rates and distribute to customers. In addition to storage options, cities can also manage their water rates as charged by the GLWA by not exceeding max volume usage during peak hours and conserving.

Economic Indicators: Housing Prices $30K Higher Since 2014

In April of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.7, a decrease from the March unemployment rate of 4.4, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for April of 2018 was 0.2 points higher than what it was in December of 2019 (3.7).

The Detroit rate was 0.8 points lower in April of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the April 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was the same as it was during the same time the previous year ( unemployment rate was 8 both years).



The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for April of 2018 and 2019. In April of 2019 Wayne County and St. Clair County both had the highest unemployment rates at 4.6. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.6. Washtenaw County was also the only county in the region to have a lower unemployment rate in April 2019 than in April 2018. Macomb and St. Clair counties had the highest difference in their unemployment rates between April 2018 and 2018; in that time frame the rates increased by 0.5. The unemployment rate for Wayne County increased by 0.4.



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 $123,370 in February 2019; this was $180 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2019 price was an increase of $5,710 from February of 2018 and an increase of $12,340 from February of 2017, an increase of $19,940 from February of 2016 and increase of  $26,490 from February of 2015 and, finally, an increase of 
$29,270 from February of 2014.

Wayne County has Highest Percentage of Children Owed Child Support

In 2017 Wayne County had the highest percentage of children owed child support in Southeastern Michigan at 26.6 percent. What this means is that among children who should  be receiving child support, there is a percentage in each county who are still owed something. The age of children looked at for this data was 0-19 years of age. Next to Wayne County, St. Clair County had the second highest percentage of children owed child support at 22.2 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children owed child support at 11.9 percent, and Livingston County was at 12.2 percent.

Just as Wayne County had the highest percentage of children owed child support, it also had the highest percentage of children owed child support who had not received any. According to the data, 33.2 percent of Wayne County children who were owed child support in 2017 had not received any. And, while Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children owed child support regionally, it had the second highest percentage of children who had not received any. In 2017, 19 percent of Washtenaw County children who were owed child support did not receive any. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of children who were owed child support but didn’t receive any at 7.3 percent. The difference in the percentage of children owed child support and the percentage who have received none could be dependent on several factors, including the median income and employment rates of that area and the resources a county dedicates to ensuring those who owe child support pay.

Child support plays a vital role in a child’s life by giving him or her additional resources to have access to financial security. Child support helps ensure a child has food, shelter and other daily necessities. Each situation involving child support differs, but in general, if a parent does not have full custody of a child he or she should anticipate paying at least 25 percent of their income for child support.

Wayne County Has Highest Percentage of Free/Reduced Lunch Eligible Students

Access to regular and nutritious meals is important, particularly for children. Having access to breakfast and lunch allows students to be able to focus better, have energy and to grow, both physically and mentally. For this reason, we have adopted programs to deliver free and reduced price lunches to children in difficult circumstances. The percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunches prices thus tracks poverty levels in a school district or county, while at the same time representing an investment in our children.

Those who are eligible for free or reduced lunch prices arechildren in households that receive benefits from the Food Assistance Program or Family Independence Program. For example, in 2018, a family of four that has an annual income of about $33,000 or less was eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. As the map below shows, Wayne County had the highest percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch in 2018, according to data from the 2019 Kids Count. In 2018 64.5 percent of school-aged children in Wayne County were eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 35.5 percent of children living in Wayne County in 2017 (the most recent data) were considered to be living below the poverty level. In 2017 a family of four was considered to be living below the poverty level if the annual household income was $24,600 or less. The county with the second highest percentage of school-aged children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices was Macomb County at 47.6 percent, and St. Clair County was slightly behind with 45.7 percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. And, for additional insight, the percentage of children living below the poverty level in 2017 in Macomb County was 17.6 percent, and the percentage of children living below the poverty level in St. Clair County was 19.2 percent.  Regionally, the county with the lowest percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices was Livingston County; 22 percent of students were eligible. The percentage of children living below the poverty level in Livingston County was 7 percent.



While we do know that the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices is a proxy measure for poverty, the percentages for both data sets do not directly mimic one other. Additionally, the income guidelines differ for the overall poverty level and eligibility for free and reduced lunch. Overall though, we do see that areas with higher poverty levels have a higher percentage of children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.

Wayne County Continues to Lose Residents

In our seven county region, Wayne County continues to be the most populated county, yet since 2010 it has also lost the most residents, according to new population data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2018 Wayne County had a population of about 1.75 million people, the Census estimated. However, as the second map shows, this was a loss of about 67,000 people since 2010. This change in population resulted in a 3.6 percent decline in Wayne County’s population. St. Clair and Monroe counties also experienced population losses since 2010.  According to the data, St. Clair County experienced a 2.3 percent population loss since 2010 and Monroe County experienced a 1 percent population loss. In 2018 St. Clair County had a population of about 159,000 and Monroe County had a population of about 150,000.

While more rural counties like St. Clair and Monroe counties experienced a population loss, Livingston and Washtenaw counties experienced the most growth regionally. In 2018 Washtenaw County had a population of about 371,000, which was an 8 percent growth since 2010. This 8 percent growth meant an additional 26,000 people moved to the county since 2010. In Livingston County the population grew by about 6 percent since 2010. In 2018 the Livingston County population was about 191,000, this is reflective of about a 10,000 person growth since 2010.

Macomb and Oakland counties also experienced population growth since 2010, by 4.7 and 4 percent, respectively. Oakland County is the only other county in the region with a population above 1 million (its population is about 1.3 million). Macomb County has a population of about 875,000.



At the state level, Michigan’s population has continued to grow for seven years now, with its most recent population count being just under 10 million people. One reason it is estimated the state is experiencing growth is because more people are moving to Michigan, and fewer people are leaving.

Global View: Southeastern Michigan Income Disparities Not So Vast

In Southeastern Michigan the range of median household incomes is vast. In Highland Park the median household income is about $16,000, and only 25 miles away the city of Bloomfield Hills has a median income of about $187,000. There are only three communities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties that have a median household income above $152,000, and all three of those communities (Bloomfield Hills, Lake Angelus and Orchard Lake) are located in Oakland County. Conversely, there are about 25 communities in those three counties where the median income is less than $50,000, with most of those communities being located in Wayne County.


While the range of median incomes regionally is immense, the map below further shows just how wide that range is when looking at it from a national perspective. With a median income of about $187,000, the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 90th percentile for median household income nationwide, as does the city of Lake Angelus ($166,000 median household income). Just a mere 25 miles away though, there are five cities with median household incomes that rank in only the 10th percentile nationwide. Those cities are:

  • Highland Park: $15,699
    • Ecorse: $23,556
    • Hamtramck: $24,369
    • Royal Oak Township: $26,406
    • Detroit: $27,838

A deeper look at the map below shows that most of Oakland County has households with median incomes in at least the 50th percentile nationwide. Macomb and Wayne counties are primarily made up of communities with median household incomes in the 30th and 40th percentiles nationwide.

When examining median household incomes in Southeastern Michigan through a global lens, the gap between communities like Highland Park and Bloomfield Hills does shrink. As shown in the map below, the city of Highland Park ranks in the 63rd global percentile for median household incomes and the city of Bloomfield Hills ranks in the 99th percentile. What this map shows is that on a global level, even our communities with the lowest median household incomes fare far better than many communities throughout the world.

According to the Washington Post, a $59,000 a year income ranks in the 40th national percentile but in the 91st percentile globally. About 70 percent of the U.S. population falls in the global middle class, which the Washington Post defines as being able to afford the basics (food, clothing and shelter) while also having some disposable income.

Southeastern Michigan County Roads Far Below Average

In 2018 not one county in Southeastern Michigan had at least 25 percent of its road pavement deemed to be in “good” condition, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG). Rather, the pendulum swung the other way, with each county having at least 33 percent of its road pavement deemed to be in “poor” condition.

The ratings-“good,” “fair,” and “poor”-are determined according to the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) system, which are linked to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council’s best practices. For roads to be deemed in “good” condition they must be new, or like new, and only require regular maintenance. Roads that are considered “fair” have some signs of aging and require preventative maintenance such as crack sealing and overlay, which will extend the life of the road. “Poor” condition roads require some type of rehabilitation or reconstruction and are near the end of their life.

Regionally, St. Clair County has the largest percentage of road pavement deemed to be in “poor” condition at 54 percent. Oakland County has the next largest percentage of road pavement in “poor” condition at 49 percent. Monroe County has the lowest percentage of roads deemed to be in “poor” condition at 33 percent.

With Monroe County having the lowest percentage of roads in “poor” condition it also has the highest percentage of roads in “good” condition at 36 percent. Wayne County has the lowest percentage of roads in “good” condition at 15 percent. In addition to Wayne, Oakland and St. Clair counties have less than 20 percent of its road pavement in “good” condition (16 and 17 percent, respectively).


In the “fair” condition category, Wayne County has the highest percentage of roads in that condition at 39 percent. Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of “fair” condition roads at 28 percent.

By now, it is common knowledge that Michigan’s roads need attention, and the funding to ensure the reconstruction and general maintenance of the roads needs to change from its current structure. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently proposed a 45 cent fuel tax hike, which is said to increase state road funding by $2.5 billion by 2021. Under this plan, the distribution of road funds (which is determined by Public Act 51) would slightly differ. Each county would still receive its normal share of the state’s current 26.3 cent per-gallon gas tax, but the additional gas tax increase would be distributed based on the use of roadways.  Currently in Michigan, counties receive 56 percent of their funding from vehicle fees, 24 percent based on the miles of county roads and the remaining 20 percent is based on other factors.

Whether Whitmer’s plan will be adopted remains in the air, but there seems to be general agreement that more funding is needed to fix the roads.

Livingston County has Highest Rate of Vaccine Waivers in Southeastern Michigan

As of April 5, 2019 there were 39 confirmed cases of measles in Michigan. According to media reports, those confirmed to have measles range in age from under a year old to 63 years of age, and at least three of the individuals with measles obtained both doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

According to the Michigan Public Health Code, there are a variety of vaccines, like the MMR vaccine, that students must obtain before entering kindergarten. Students entering school also have the option to receive a vaccine waiver though. In Michigan, like every other state in the U.S., vaccine waivers are given for religious reasons. Additionally, Michigan also allows exemptions for philosophical reasons. In order to opt children out of vaccination, parents are required to receive education on the benefits of vaccination and the risks that come when an individual isn’t vaccinated.

Regionally, Livingston County had the highest percentage of school-aged children with immunization waivers at 7.9 percent. St. Clair County had the next highest percentage of children with immunization waivers at 5.5 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of immunization waivers at 3 percent.



Across the State of Michigan the percentage of children receiving vaccines began to drop in 2013, and while there was a slight uptick between 2016 and 2017 (3.9% to 4.2% for kindergartners) there has still been an overall decrease since 2010. It was in 2010 that additional vaccine requirements were added by the state, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Overall, public health officials said the anti-vaccine movement is growing, in large part due to the ability social media has to spread information, and misinformation.

To learn more about the immunization of your child’s school, click here.