Black Children in Michigan Reportedly Falling Behind in Key Educational Benchmarks

Black children in Michigan lag behind their peers in various key educational benchmarks, such as high school graduation rates, associate’s degree completion, and fourth-grade reading proficiency, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results report. The report analyzes early childhood, education, work experiences, family resources, and neighborhood context data. Disinvestment in education and discriminatory housing and funding policies have contributed to the educational challenges faced by black children in the state, says Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. The report emphasizes the need for policy changes to address these inequities.

The Race for Results report, first introduced in 2014 and updated in 2017 and now in its third edition, incorporates data from the COVID-19 pandemic. This recent data highlights the urgency of implementing policies that support the development and well-being of all children. The report asserts that the lack of investment in policies, programs, and services targeting under-resourced communities and communities of color prevents young people from reaching crucial developmental milestones. It also highlights the disparities among different racial and ethnic groups in Michigan, where progress is uneven.

While Michigan has surpassed the national average in the number of young adults aged 25 to 29 with an associate’s degree or higher, the achievement gap persists for black students. Only 20% of black students in Michigan earn an associate’s degree, compared to 42% of the state’s overall young adult population. This finding indicates the need to address educational disparities and ensure equal opportunities for all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic background.

Race for Results chart

“To create a stronger sense of belonging and foster population growth in Michigan, we must address inequities through policy change,” says Stanton. “Deliberate choices should be made to ensure that the next generation of students has the necessary tools and resources to succeed, regardless of their race, ZIP code, or income.”

In terms of family structure, Michigan has seen progress in children living in two-parent households. This applies to black children, as well as children of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, the indicator worsened for white children, raising concerns about racial disparities in family resources and financial security.

The Race for Results report utilizes a standardized scoring system across 12 indicators representing well-being from birth to career. Scores are converted to a 0-1000 scale for easier comparison across states and racial/ethnic groups. The indicators are grouped into four areas: early childhood, education and early work experiences, family resources, and neighborhood context.

Michigan’s overall scores by race (national scores in parentheses):

  • Black: 268 (386)
  • Latino: 479 (452)
  • Two or More Races: 515 (612)
  • American Indian/Alaska Native: 565 (418)
  • White: 660 (697)
  • Asian and Pacific Islander: 800 (771)

According to the report, children’s experiences vary greatly depending on their geographic location. For example, Asian and Pacific Islander children in New Jersey have an index score of 877, while American Indian or Alaska Native children in South Dakota have a score of 180. These disparities highlight the need for targeted policies and programs to address the well-being gaps for children of color in under-resourced communities.

In terms of policy recommendations, the report suggests expanding the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The temporary expansion of the CTC during the pandemic lifted 2.1 million children out of poverty, with Michigan already expanding the EITC in 2023. The report also proposes the implementation of baby bonds and children’s savings accounts to help families save for their children’s future. Additionally, policymakers must prioritize targeted programs and policies that address the specific needs of young people of color, as universal policies are necessary but not sufficient for eliminating disparities.


Disclosure: The Michigan League for Public Policy contributes a regular column to the Advance.

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