More affluent school districts in Southeastern Michigan have higher immunization waiver rates

In recent weeks news has broken about outbreaks of diseases many have thought were eradicated. From a mumps outbreak in the NHL to a measles outbreak at Disney World, in which the pattern includes seven different states with a whooping cough outbreaks, and a measles outbreak much closer to home in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties- we are seeing that these diseases are indeed making a comeback, and many believe it is because of the growing number of children not being immunized.

While there have been no such outbreaks as mentioned above, immunization rates do vary in Southeastern Michigan, with some school districts having rates lower than the minimum thresholds needed to prevent the spread of disease. This is problematic, as low immunization rates threaten herd immunity and puts both vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals at risk.

What is herd immunity?

The phrase “herd immunity” refers to protecting a community from disease by having a critical mass of its population immunized. Rather than just protecting the person vaccinated, vaccines can protect the entire community by breaking the chain of an infection’s transmission. However, for this to be successful, a certain number of people have to be vaccinated.

Epidemiologists have determined a basic threshold for infectious disease transmission by calculating both a “basic reproduction number” (R0), which represents how many people in an unprotected population one infected person can pass the disease along to – basically, a single person with mumps can pass it along to between 4 and 7 non-vaccinated people, while a single person with the measles could pass it along to between 12 and 18. The higher this R0 value is, the higher the percentage of vaccinated people in the population has to be, in order to prevent the spread of these illnesses. Therefore, in order to prevent an outbreak of measles, for instance, in a school district, 89-94% of students would have to be immunized.


Photo credit © Tangled Bank Studios; data from Epidemiologic Reviews, 1993.

Furthermore, it is important for the population to be immunized in order to protect the health of those who cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and people with weakened immune systems. When large chunks of the community are not protected against these diseases, it is these groups of people whose health with be the most affected.

What are the immunization rates in Southeast Michigan schools?

Rates vary from well above minimum threshold numbers for even the most contagious diseases (Hazel Park and Southfield schools both have rates of 98%) to far below the threshold for any sort of protection (Madison Public Schools has the lowest, at only 70% vaccinated). However, it is important to note that not all school districts track vaccination rates uniformly – Inkster Public Schools, for instance, is reporting a 100% vaccination rate, but that’s based on an interview with a very small sample of students and may not be accurate.

Note: Data unavailable for Willow Run Schools (white area), as it was absorbed into Ypsilanti Schools this year.

One interesting trend present in the map is how more affluent districts seem to have lower vaccination rates than their less affluent counterparts, suggesting that non-vaccination is more of a trend in middle- to upper-income communities (although this certainly does not hold true for all). One important fact about herd immunity is that being vaccinated yourself (or vaccinating your children) matters less when the population isn’t immunized. For example, an unvaccinated student in Hazel Park would have less of a chance of catching a vaccine-preventable illness than a vaccinated student in neighboring Madison Heights, since it would be exceedingly difficult for disease to spread in a population that is nearly universally protected against it.

What is Michigan doing to boost vaccination rates?

As of January 1, 2015, the Michigan Department of Community Health changed their rules on obtaining an exemption waiver for vaccinations. Starting this year, parents will still have the right to refuse inoculations, but first they have to be educated by a local health worker about vaccines and the diseases they are intended to prevent, and sign a universal state form that includes a statement of acknowledgement that they understand they may be putting their own children and others at risk by refusing shots.

Currently, Michigan is one of 20 states that allow such an exemption. With this being the case, it was still easier to obtain a waiver here than it is elsewhere – for instance, Arkansas and Minnesota require a waiver form to be notarized, and Vermont requires parents who opt out to renew their waiver each year, instead of just for kindergarten, sixth grade, and in the event of a school transfer.

There is a definite correlation between the ease of getting an exemption waiver for vaccinations and the percentage of students who obtain waivers, as one study (Blank, Caplan & Constable, 2013) found that states with an easier process had waiver rates twice as high as those with more complicated ones. Therefore, by tightening these restrictions, Michigan’s vaccination waiver rates may decrease, and vaccination rates may increase.

Blank, N.R., Caplan, A.R. & Constable, C. (2013) Excempting schoolchildren from immunizations: States with few barriers had highest rates of nonmedical exemptions. Health Affairs 32(7): 1282-1290.


Detroit News: Detroit home program not as successful as originally thought

According to a recent Detroit News article, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s home auction program launched in 2014 looked successful on the outside. Of the about 400 abandoned homes up for auction, 394 were bid on and appeared to be being transferred to new owners. However, of those 394 supposed-to-be-new homeowners only about a third were able to close on the homes. Additionally, 37 of the closings were delayed and dozens fell through. In total, according to numbers provided by the Detroit Land Bank, 138 properties were closed on. To read more click here.

NYT: Lower wage earners hit the hardest by local, state taxes

An article recently released by the New York Times shed light on a study produced by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy that shows how lower wage earners pay a large percentage of their income in local and state taxes than the middle fifth and 1 percent of Americans.

In Michigan, according to the study, the share of a family income of non-elderly taxpayers paid in state and local taxes was 5.1 percent. The lowest 20 percent paid 9.2 percent of their family income in state and local taxes, the second lowest 20 percent paid 9.4 and the middle lowest paid 9.2 percent. To learn more about who pays what in state and local taxes in Michigan click here. For the whole report click here.

Majority of Michigan’s refugees resettle in Oakland County

In 2013, Michigan accepted the third highest number of refugees in the country, behind only California and Texas, according to the U.S. Department of the State. That year, 4,608 refugees entered Michigan; this represented 6.5 percent of all U.S. arrivals. The majority of refugees who relocated to the state made their home in Southeastern Michigan.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “a refugee is a person who has been forced from his or her home and crossed an international border for safety. He or she must have a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her native country, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the following individuals with the below immigrant statuses are eligible to enter and stay in the U.S. legally:

  • Refugee
  • Asylee
  • Entrant
  • Victim of Human Trafficking
  • Those with a special Immigrant Visa


In 2013, 3,221 refugees relocated to a municipality within the seven counties of Southeastern Michigan. Of these counties, Oakland County received the largest number of refugees at 2,056. Following Oakland County was Macomb County with 871 refugees. Livingston, Monroe, and St. Clair counties did not have any refugees relocate within their boundaries in 2013. In total, 68 percent of all refugees who resettled in Michigan in 2013 came to Oakland, Macomb or Wayne counties. These three counties, along with Kent and Ingham Counties, are where 92 percent of refugees resettled in Michigan in 2013.

The majority of refugees who relocated to Southeastern Michigan in 2013 came from Iraq. Iraqis made up 99.7 percent of the refugees relocating to Oakland County, 99.6 percent of those to Macomb County, and 97.5 percent of those to Wayne County. Washtenaw County had a lower percentage of Iraqi refugee arrivals at 80.5%; Somalians and “other” made up the remaining 20 percent. The refugee populations that relocated to Kent and Ingham counties in 2013 were predominantly made up of people from Burma and Bhutan.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Iraqis are the predominant group seeking refugee status in other countries, such as the United States, because of the armed conflict in their home country. Since 2003, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants, about 43,000 Iraqi refugees have resettled in Michigan.


According to the U.S. Department of State, there was a 61 percent increase from the number of arrivals to Wayne County in 2012 (84) to 2013 (212). During that same time-frame, Macomb County experienced a 35 percent increase and Oakland County experienced a 19 percent increase. Of the four counties in the region where refugees relocated to in 2012 and 2013, Washtenaw County was the only county that experienced a decrease; there were eight fewer refugee arrivals in 2013 compared to 2012.

Additionally, just as experienced in 2013, in 2012 the majority of the refugee arrivals in the region and the state were from Iraq. Complete data was not available for 2014, however, through September 2014, the data shows that Iraq continues to be the country from which the majority of refugees who resettle in Southeast Michigan originate.

For 2015 though the United Nations Refugee Agency has stated that those of Syrian, Palestinian, Iranian and Turkish descent will be the most likely to seek refugee status. In September of 2014 U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Mary Warf said there were thousands of Syrian refugees who were referred to the United State for processing by the United Nations (World Net Daily).

Complete data was not available for 2014, however data through September 2014 again shows that Oakland County received the highest number of refugees and the country in which majority of refugees come from to resettle in Michigan is Iraq.


Number of vacant addresses in Detroit slightly decline

The most recent (September 2014) quarterly statistics from the U.S. Postal Service show a slight decline in the total number of vacant addresses in the city of Detroit. The total number of vacant addresses (both residential and commercial) declined by 62 from 89,542 to 89,480 for the period July 2014 to September 2014. The total number of residential addresses declined by 455 from 362,342 to 361,887 likely reflecting ongoing demolition activity during the quarter. The total vacancy rate remained unchanged at 22 percent.


USPS VacUpdate2

Best Performing Neighborhoods in Detroit (Green): Wayne State, West Canfield, Art/Cultural Center, Atkinson/Euclid. Lafayette Park, East Riverfront, Grandale, Cody, Rouge Park, University District, Rosedale Park, Palmer Park, Morang/Moross (St Johns Hospital area), Castle Rouge, Woodmere, Islandview

Worst Performing Neighborhoods in Detroit (Red): Tireman, Barton-McFarlane, Plymouth-Hubbell, Brightmoor, Schoolcraft, Mexicantown, Oakwood Heights, Denby (south of Morang), East Warren, Pershing, Kranz Woods, State Fair-Nolan

St. Clair County had highest percentage off of opposite sex unmarried partner households in 2013

In this post we see that in 2013 the percentage of households comprised of opposite-sex unmarried partners ranged from 4.3 percent to 6.2 percent, with St. Clair County having the highest percentage. Additionally, there were more opposite-sex unmarried partner households in Southeast Michigan, than same-sex unmarried households in 2013. As shown in a previous post, no county had more than 0.8 percent of its households comprised of same-sex unmarried households was above 0.8 percent and no municipality’s percentage was above 3.7 percent.

Within the seven county region, Milan City in Monroe County had the highest percentage of opposite-sex unmarried partner households at 16.8 percent. The only other municipality within the region where more than 10 percent of the households were made up of an opposite-sex unmarried partners was Mussey Township in St. Clair County; 10.9 percent of the population lived in such a household.

As already noted, St. Clair County had the highest percentage of opposite-sex unmarried partner households at 6.2 percent; Oakland County had the lowest at 4.3 percentage. Within Oakland County, Hazel Park had the highest percentage of opposite-sex unmarried partner households at 7.8 percent. Oakland and Macomb counties were the only counties that did not have a municipality where 9 percent or more of households contained opposite-sex unmarried partners. In Wayne County, Gibraltar was the only municipality where more than 9 percent of the households were made up of opposite-sex unmarried partners (9.1 percent).Conway Township in Livingston County also had 9.1 percent of its households made up of opposite-sex unmarried partners; this was the only municipality in Livingston County where more than 9 percent of the households being made up of opposite-sex unmarried partners. In Washtenaw County, Ypsilanti had the highest percentage of opposite-sex unmarried partner households at 9.6 percent.

Although at the municipal level there were few communities where more than 9 percent of the households were made up of opposite-sex unmarried partners, at the census tract level we see that there were in fact areas throughout Oakland and Macomb counties where more than 9 percent of households were comprised of opposite-sex unmarried partners. In Oakland County, these areas were located in and around Pontiac, Rochester, White Lake and Ferndale/Hazel Park. In Macomb County, these tracts were in the areas of Chesterfield Township, Sterling Heights, Mount Clemens, Fraser, Harrison Township, Clinton Township, and Eastpointe.

Detroit, which had a percentage of 5.2 of opposite-sex unmarried partner households, had a large number of census tract with a high percentage of opposite-sex unmarried partner households.

NYT: Non-working men spend more time watching television while women spend more time caring for others

A recent article by the New York Times displays how unemployed men and women typically spend their day. This data, which was part of the American Time Use Survey, shows how non-working men between the ages of 25 and 54 spend more time watching television while women in the same age range without jobs spend more time caring for others. To read more please click here.

Regional leaders committed to growing Michigan’s blue economy

Michigan’s “blue economy” remains a priority for universities, non-profits, government entities and business leaders across the region. Recently, a “Blue Economy Tour” was led by the University Research Corridor (URC) – an alliance of Michigan’s three leading research institutions, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University that highlighted a mantra many of those in the Great Lakes State have been already know: “Maintain and protect our water resources and Michigan will flourish.”

To read more about Michigan’s growing “blue” industry click here.

Pleasant Ridge had highest percentage of same-sex unmarried households

According to Equality Michigan there were about 287,000 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) adults in Michigan in 2010, accounting for about 3 percent of the state’s population. Currently, Michigan is one of 13 states that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage. Despite the ban, there are thousands of same sex couples living together throughout the state. In Southeastern Michigan, Washtenaw County had the highest percentage of same-sex unmarried households. It was a small city in Oakland County that had the highest percentage of same-sex unmarried households at the municipal level.

In this post we will further examine the percentage of same-sex unmarried households at the municipal level throughout the region, along with at the census tract level. The data for this post is from the 2013 American Community Survey.

In both the seven county and tri-county regions, the city of Pleasant Ridge had the highest percentage of same-sex unmarried partner households at 3.7 percent. Pleasant Ridge is a small city located in the southern part of Oakland County off of Woodward Avenue, with the the city of Royal Oak to the north and the city of Ferndale to the south. Ferndale, which is home to the region’s largest LGBT advocacy center, Affirmations, had 1.6 percent of its population made up of unmarried same-sex partner households. Grove Township, in the northwestern part of Oakland County, also had 1.6 percent of its population made up of unmarried same-sex partner households.

While the Ferndale area is well-known for being a LGBT-friendly community, Casco Township in rural St. Clair County had the second highest percentage of unmarried same-sex partner households in the region at 2.2 percent. However, while Casco Township had the second highest representation in the region there were eight communities in St. Clair County where 0 percent of the population lived in an unmarried same-sex partner household. This statistic was similarly represented in other rural parts of the region, such as in Monroe County, parts of northern Macomb and Oakland counties, and throughout Livingston and Washtenaw counties.

Although Washtenaw County had several communities where 0 percent of the population lived in an unmarried same-sex partner household, it was still the county with the highest percentage of such households. Ann Arbor, which is the county’s largest city and the home of the University of Michigan, had 1.1 percent of its population residing in an unmarried same-sex partner household. Sylvan Township had the highest percentage of unmarried same-sex partner households in Washtenaw County a 1.6 percent.

In Wayne County, the cities of Flat Rock, Grosse Pointe Park and Plymouth were the only three communities where more than 1 percent of the population resided in an unmarried same-sex partner household.

When looking at the tri-county region and the Wayne County at the census tract level we see that there are many census tracts and/or neighborhoods where upwards of 3 percent of the population resides in an unmarried same-sex partner household. For example, in the city of Detroit, where .3 percent of the total population lived in an unmarried same-sex partner household, there are areas near Grosse Pointe Farms, Woodward Avenue and 7 Mile Road and Dearborn where more than 3 percent of the population lived in an unmarried same-sex partner household. Or, in Bruce Township, where less than 1 percent of the population lived in an unmarried same-sex partner household, there was about a third of the city where between 2.1 and 3 percent of the census tracts are made up of unmarried same-sex partner households.

Next week, we will examine the percentage of opposite sex unmarried households.

Monroe County had highest rate of heroin deaths in 2012

Drug overdose death rates have risen steadily since 1970, increasing fivefold since 1990. According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common drugs associated with these deaths are heroin, cocaine and opioid painkillers. Of the three, heroin causes the highest number of deaths in Southeast Michigan, according to the Center for Disease Control.

[Footnote: From CDC: ]


While Wayne County had the highest number of heroin deaths recorded in 2012 (62), when adjusted for population Macomb and Monroe counties had the highest rates (rates were calculated using 2012 population estimates from the American Community Survey).

Heroin is inextricably linked to opioid use, as many heroin users start with abusing opioid prescriptions and then graduate to illicit drugs. In the last 20 years, there has been a tenfold increase in the medical use of opioid painkillers, and with this expansion, there has been an increasing rate of opioid overdoses. In Southeast Michigan, Wayne County had the highest number of opioid deaths and Monroe County had the highest rate.

[From CDC:

From CDC:]


In the mid-2000s, a number of policies were enacted throughout the United States aimed at decreasing opioid misuse. Michigan created a law in 2010 to discourage the practice of “doctor shopping” in order to obtain prescription drugs, while some drugs, like OxyContin, were retooled to deter abuse by making them more difficult to crush. Since the mid-2000s, heroin death rates have increased dramatically.

[From State of Michigan:

New England Journal of Medicine:]


While the trends for the opiate death rates are sporadic, this is likely due to the low number of deaths recorded during the time period, where a single instance can cause a huge uptick. However, there were visible upward trends in Wayne, Macomb and Monroe counties, with smaller upward trends in Washtenaw and St. Clair counties.

The heroin trends, however, are more pronounced, with a clear increase occurring between 2005 and 2012. One interesting point of note is that although Wayne County had the highest number of heroin deaths its rates generally remained consistent. Macomb, Monroe, and St. Clair counties, on the other hand, start the millennium off with generally low rates that noticeably spiked, and continued to remain high. However, for both heroin and opiate deaths Macomb County decreased from 2011-2012.

From 2000-2012, heroin accounted for 1,764 deaths in the Southeast Michigan area, opiates accounted for 534, and cocaine accounted for 500. Wayne County had the highest number of cocaine related deaths in 2012, with 39. However, when adjusted for population, St. Clair County had the highest rate, followed closely by Wayne, Macomb and Monroe counties.


One item of note is that across all drugs, Oakland County consistently had the lowest overdose rates. Further research as to why that is may be useful. Polices that have been suggested to reduce overdose deaths include enhanced use of antidotes like naxalone, better access to treatment programs, and Good Samaritan 911 laws (where people reporting overdoses are given immunity), among others, although the effects of these programs have yet to be adequately studied.