Throughout Southeastern Michigan, majority of the communities in the region experienced a decrease in the percentage of residents living below the poverty level between 2015 to 2016, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2016, a family of four was considered to be living at the poverty level with an annual income of $24,250, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; this was the same for 2015.
Southeastern Michigan was -0.2 percent. However, Summerfield Township in Monroe County experienced a 7 percent increase in the percentage of residents living below the poverty level between 2015 and 2016. In 2015, 9 percent of residents in Summerfield Township lived below the poverty level and in 2016, 16 percent of residents lived below the poverty level. Of the 28 municipalities (out of 213 in Southeastern Michigan) where there was a 1 percent or higher increase in the poverty level between 2015 and 2016, the majority were located in the rural suburbs of the region.
The municipality with the largest percentage decrease in residents living in poverty was Port Huron Township in St. Clair County at -5 percent. In 2015, 23 percent of the residents in Port Huron Township lived below the poverty level and by 2016 that decreased to 18 percent.
While there was an overall average decrease in the percentage of residents living in poverty between 2015 to 2016, the two cities with the highest overall percentage of residents living below the poverty level experienced an increase. In 2016, about 50 percent of the residents in Hamtramck lived below the poverty level; this was a 2.4 percent increase from 2015. In 2016, Highland Park had about 47 percent of its residents living below the poverty level, which was an increase of 2.5 percent.
In 2016, about 39 percent of residents in Detroit lived below the poverty level, which was a decrease of 1 percent from 2015. A closer look at the Census tracts in Detroit though show that poverty levels did not decrease across the board. One Census tract specifically, which is located along the Detroit River in Southwest Detroit, experienced a 49 percent increase in the percentage of residents living below the poverty level. In addition to that Census tract, several others surrounding it also experienced poverty level increases up to 19 percent.
When looking at the Census tracts east of Hamtramck, with the exception of seven, all experienced a decrease in the percentage of residents living below the poverty level. It was this area of the City of Detroit that had the fewest number of Census tracts with percentage increases in the poverty level but also had among the highest poverty levels in 2016. It was just west of Highland Park though that had the most number of Census tracts with poverty levels below 35 percent in 2016.
Overall, the most recent poverty data released by the U.S. Census Bureau does show that poverty levels are decreasing, but not a rapid rate. The data also shows that there were 19 municipalities in the region with 20 percent or more of residents living below the poverty level. While this was a decrease from the 23 municipalities with the same statistic in 2015, the numbers still tell a story that Southeastern Michigan isn’t climbing out of poverty rapidly. We will need many years of broad based economic growth to reduce poverty levels substantially.