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Kids Count Report: Poverty Increasing For Michigan, Detroit Kids

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An annual report examining the living conditions for children across Michigan finds high poverty rates satewide, and even bleaker news for kids living in the city of Detroit.

The most recent Kids Count in Michigan Data Book shows a 13 percent jump in the number of kids living in poverty in the city between 2005 and 2009. It also finds that more than 80 percent of children in Detroit Public Schools now qualify for free student lunches.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the study's project director at the Michigan League for Human Services, told HuffPost children in both Detroit and around the state are suffering the impacts of the long recession.

"The general situation [in Detroit] pretty much mirrors what's happening in Michigan in terms of trends, [but] the level of economic distress in the city is much more acute than the state as a whole," Zehnder-Merrell said.

About 51 percent of Detroit children age 17 and under were living in poverty, more than double Michigan's childhood poverty rate of 22 percent, according to Kids Count's most recent statistics from 2009.

The percentage of people of all ages living in poverty was 33.2, according to census data.

Conditions for Detroit kids did show some signs of improvement.

The rate of confirmed victims of abuse and/or neglect improved by 5 percent with a rate of 16 victims per 1,000 children, compared with the statewide rate of 14 per 1,000. The city also experienced a 25 percent decline in the rate of child deaths over the past decade. In 2009, 318 children up to age 14 died, down from 471 in 2000.

Zehnder-Merrell said although these improvements are somewhat encouraging, the statistics are still troubling.

"We're looking at rates [for Detroit] that are substantially higher than the state as a whole, so it speaks to how important the urban agenda should be in terms of targeting programming to our hard hit cities," she said.

Statistics from the annual data book are available from from the Michigan League for Human Services.

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