A reworked Michigan Poverty & Well-being Map from the University of Michigan is detailing the various ways residents in different regions of the state are struggling to get by.

The recent study from UM’s Poverty Solutions initiative mapped several economic challenges across 10 “Prosperity Regions” using “multiple metrics to give us a more holistic idea of how Michiganders are doing,” Luke Shaefer, professor of social work and public policy, said.

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The overarching results are not good, showing 39% of Michiganders statewide are experiencing significant economic problems, though those problems vary by region. The 39% includes 13% who live below the federal poverty threshold, as well as nearly 26% above it. Nationally, just 11.5% live below the federal poverty line, Michigan Advance reports.

“Twenty-six percent of those people are not considered to be in poverty, so they’re often overlooked,” said Patrick Schaefer, analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “But these are the working families of Michigan. So when we were looking at benefits in the future, I think it would be good for the state if we expanded who we thought of was in need and who was deserving of benefits.”

The research, based on 2021 U.S. Census data, details skyrocketing housing costs near Detroit and in northwest Michigan, high rates of food insecurity in the east central region, lagging wages in east Michigan, high child poverty rates in the northeast, and the detrimental impact of poor educational outcomes in the south central region.

The data shows residents across the Upper Peninsula are struggling with average housing and transportation costs eating up half of their income, while folks in the southwest earn 8% less than the state median, including nearly 22% in Benton Harbor who earn half of the federal poverty threshold.

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Still other findings point to racial disparities in economic security in southeast Michigan, and the state’s record low income and high child poverty rates in Lake County, which are driven in part by sky-high high school dropout rates, according to the UM analysis.

“There’s different factors driving poverty and well-being in different parts of the state, and so, there’s not a one-stop solution,” Amanda Northaft, director of data at Poverty Solutions, told the Advance. “It’s really important to look at the greater context of a region when addressing these problems.”

The study offers suggestions for countering the trends, from spending more on education, to measures to promote affordable housing, while Schaefer suggests direct cash benefits, either through the existing system or a guaranteed income program.

For many Michiganders, the results from the UM research is not surprising, as they follow similar studies illustrating the state’s decline since the pandemic under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A 2024 Kids Count Data Book released last week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Michigan League for Public Policy shows Michigan slipped two spots from last year in the measure of child well-being, with the state now ranked 34th among states overall.

Michigan data in every education measure was worse than the national average, and worse than before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office.

For economic well-being, the data book ranked Michigan 31st, with categories including “children whose parents lack secure employment,” “children living in households with high housing cost burden,” and “teens not in school and not working” worse than in 2019.

The week prior, an updated Fortune 500 list showed Michigan now has only 16 of the nation’s top 500 companies based on revenue, a figure that has dwindled from 30 when Whitmer took office.

The state’s economic struggles under Democratic leadership have even raised alarm from Whitmer’s own Growing Michigan Together Council, which documented how the Great Lakes State is now “lagging in median income, educational outcomes, and attainment and have fallen behind faster-growing peer states in key measures of infrastructure, community well-being, and job opportunities.”