COVID-19 Pandemic Jeopardizes Michigan’s Progress on Child and Family Well-Being, Exposes Greatest Needs 

June 21, 2021

Alex Rossman

COVID-19 Pandemic Jeopardizes Michigan’s Progress on Child and Family Well-Being, Exposes Greatest Needs 

Michigan ranked 28 overall in national KIDS COUNT Data Book; State Data Book provides county data on areas of improvement, ongoing challenges

LANSING, MICHIGAN — Michigan was doing better than half of its peer states in children’s economic security and health prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but was falling short on education needs, according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families have fared between the Great Recession and the last year before the COVID-19 crisis.

The Michigan League for Public Policy also released its 2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book today, and together, the state and national reports on child well-being show nearly a decade of progress on kids and families’ needs could be erased by the COVID-19 pandemic unless policymakers act boldly to sustain the beginnings of a recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

“As we look at the things Michigan has done well to better support kids and parents over the last decade, the improvements we’ve seen in children’s health and economic security are now the very areas still being threatened by COVID-19, and the pandemic stands to make Michigan’s existing struggles in education outcomes even worse,” said Kelsey Perdue, Michigan Kids Count director. “We have seen the progress we can make with a concerted effort, sound policy decisions and related investments, and policymakers need to follow that same formula to offset COVID’s impact, especially with the increased state and federal funding available right now.”

Sixteen indicators measuring four domains — economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context — are used by the Foundation in each year’s national Data Book to assess child well-being. The national Data Book also tracks how child well-being indicators have been improving or declining in each state, comparing 2010 to 2019 data this year, and ranks states in each domain and in overall child well-being. 

For 2021, Michigan was ranked 28th in the nation in overall child well-being, an improvement from its ranking of 32nd last year. Michigan’s best national rank in the four categories was 22nd in Health, followed by its rankings of 24th in Economic Well-Being and 29th in Family and Community Context. Michigan’s lowest national rank was again in Education at 41st in the country. Some noteworthy data points include:

  • ECONOMIC WELL-BEING: In 2019, 371,000 children lived in households with an income below the poverty line. 
  • EDUCATION: In 2017–19, 125,000 young children were not in school.
  • AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: In 2019, 78,000 children did not have health insurance. 
  • FAMILY AND COMMUNITY CONTEXT: In 2015–19, 295,000 children lived in high- poverty areas. 

While the national Data Book analyzes national and state data on child well-being, the 2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book: A Better Future is Possible examines state, regional, county and some city data, with the two reports working together to tell the whole story of how Michigan kids and their families are doing. The League looks at four similar domains as the national Data Book — Economic Security, Education, Health and Safety, and Family and Community — to assess child well-being. Some of the individual indicators and data sources vary within those categories, but this year’s state Data Book also primarily compares data from 2010 to 2019 along with most recent year data for additional indicators. 

The Michigan Data Book also found that Michigan worsened in less than adequate prenatal care from 2010 to 2019, and children in investigated families went up (worsened) from 2010 to 2020, and the number of 3- and 4-year-olds in school stayed the same from 2010-2019. The Michigan Data Book’s Education indicators have different year ranges due to testing changes and methodology, but the state improved in eighth graders proficient in math between 2015 and 2018 and students graduating high school on time from 2010 to 2020. The state worsened in third graders proficient in English Language Arts from 2015 to 2019.

While the report includes the most recent information available for the state, it does not fully capture the impact of the past year. Additional survey data from the last year that are included in the books add to the story of Michigan’s children and families in this moment, looking at the struggles with economic, food, and housing security, educational challenges, and mental health strain of the pandemic on kids and parents.

“Michigan children and families should be at the forefront of every policy decision, and all children should be given the same opportunities to thrive. No child’s well-being should be based on their race, ethnicity, family income or zip code,” said Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “The Kids Count data help ensure lawmakers know how kids are doing in our districts and what policies can help improve the lives of our young people. As a state Senator and as a mom, securing the well-being of Michigan’s kids is the most important part of my work.”

The 2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book and national KIDS COUNT® Data Book show simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities. Investing in children, families and communities is a priority to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. The Michigan Data Book’s policy recommendations include: 

  • Adopting a weighted school funding formula to fund schools based on community and student need.
  • Improving job opportunities, working conditions and tax implications by restoring Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal credit, expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit and implementing a graduated income tax to help Michigan workers keep more of their hard-earned wages.
  • Raising Michigan’s income eligibility threshold for state child care subsidies to a minimum of 185%, with incremental increases to 250% of poverty, and increasing payments to child care providers to reflect the actual cost of care, increasing quality, availability and access for families.  
  • Eliminating low eligibility thresholds, child compliance and other barriers that prevent families from accessing critical safety net programs.     
  • Ensuring adequate support for programs that assist foster youth exiting the system with education, housing and work.     


Release Information 

The National 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book will be available June 21 at 12:01 a.m. EDT at Additional information is available at Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on opportunity for all. Its mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.     

The Kids Count in Michigan project,, is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center,

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.



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