UPDATED: Northern Michigan County Falls Below Average on 2015 Kids Count Report
“Parents aren’t working because there’s no jobs. It’s just very difficult.”
Child poverty: a growing problem in Michigan.
And it’s proven on paper.
The 2015 Kids Count Report ranked Lake County last in the state for child well-being.
The Michigan League of Public Policy produces the report regularly.
9&10’s Cody Boyer and Photojournalist Jeff Blakeman break down the sometimes troubling numbers.
The Kids Count Report looked at county trends from 2006 to 2014 to measure child well-being.
And several Northern Michigan counties ranked poorly.
“Lack of employment. Lack of jobs. People sometimes unable to work.”
Lee Ann Russell has lived in Lake County her entire life.
From her perspective as president of the county’s Chamber of Commerce, the problem starts with the economy.
“The economy has a great deal to do with it because people are just not able to get jobs or sometimes they are unwilling to work,” Russell said. “They just do the best they can with whatever they have.”
Lake County ranked dead last out of 82 counties in Michigan with an unemployment rate of 13.1 percent and a median household income of just over $30,000.
Wexford County also ranked low, coming up 70th.
On the flip side, Grand Traverse County was ninth, with a lower unemployment rate and higher median income than the state averages.
“Lack of education is a big part and that’s a really big key in making that switch so education for everything, from parent education, family education and all the way down to pre-school education will be where we want to start,” said Niki Schultz, co-coordinator of the Great Start Collaborative at the Cadillac Chamber of Commerce.
Without jobs to help people put food on the table, Lee Ann says the problems will continue.
“I can look up and down main street and I can tell you that there is not one business on main street that isn’t struggling,” Russell said. “We all have to struggle.”
The Lake County Chamber of Commerce says business is so slow during winter months, businesses struggle to even stay open, let alone hire employees.
The 2015 Kids Count report is out and one Northern Michigan county still falls below average when it comes to preparing young children for success in school.
This report comes at a time where there’s been reduced help for struggling families.
According to the annual kids count survey, one in every four children live in poverty.
A 35-percent increase, over the course of about six-years.
In state rankings, Lake County is last in “overall child well-being”.
The community says this is due to a lack of jobs and a poor economy.