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Gun control measures associated with reduced police use of force

Lauren Slagter,
Jared Wadley,, 734-834-7719

ANN ARBOR—As police departments and activists look for strategies to reduce excessive use of force by police, new research from the University of Michigan shows limited data, lack of transparency and irregular implementation of reforms make it difficult to determine which approaches are effective.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which gained worldwide attention after the May 2020 death of George Floyd, has raised awareness of the police brutality and systematic racism that overwhelmingly affects Black Americans. While there are more white Americans killed by police than any other ethno-racial group, Black Americans, in particular, are disproportionately at risk of police violence: Police are more likely to stop Black Americans than white Americans, to use higher levels of force with Black Americans than white Americans, and to kill Black Americans than white Americans.

“The criminal legal system both causes and reinforces racial and socioeconomic inequalities. Understanding what works in reform and what we know and don’t know about policing gives us greater insight into the interlinked systems that fail to function as they should for people with low incomes,” said Trevor Bechtel, Poverty Solutions’ project lead on the Prosecutor Transparency Project and an adjunct instructor at the U-M School of Social Work.

Bechtel co-authored a new policy brief, “Evidence on Measures to Reduce Excessive Use of Force by the Police,” with U-M faculty members Mara Ostfeld and H. Luke Shaefer.

One explanation for why U.S. law enforcement officers shoot more people than law enforcement in other countries is that they are afraid civilians may be armed and use lethal force against them. The policy brief from U-M’s Poverty Solutions and the U-M Center for Racial Justice evaluates the impact of gun control and 14 proposed reform measures on police use of force.

The analysis focuses on policing reforms proposed by Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait”; the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate; and the 2015 President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The proposed reforms include de-escalation training, banning chokeholds, banning no-knock warrants, requiring use of body cameras and implicit bias training, among others.

“This brief is important because it challenges our assumptions about the benefits of many reforms,” said Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton. “All of us—police service professionals, community members and researchers—need to be challenged to make sure we are advocating for the right reforms that keep people safe.”

Of the policies the researchers evaluated, stricter firearm policies had the most consistent relationship with reduced use of force among police. One analysis found the rate of fatal police shootings in the 10 states with the highest rate of gun ownership was 3.6 times greater than the rate of fatal police shootings in the five states with the lowest rates of gun ownership.

Research that examines police shooting rates before and after changes to state gun regulations found stricter firearms regulations also are associated with significantly lower numbers of fatal police shooting cases. In multiple states, law enforcement agencies have opposed laws that would allow civilians to carry guns without permits.

“Easy access to guns means police have to approach nearly every encounter as a potential life-or-death situation. The fact that many states have relatively lenient gun control policies makes this an area with particularly strong potential to reduce police use of force,” said Shaefer, faculty director of Poverty Solutions, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, and a professor of public policy and social work.

Other evidence suggests employing more Black and women officers would reduce use of force rates. Black officers—and to a lesser degree, Latino officers—are significantly less likely to stop, arrest and use force against civilians, especially Black civilians, relative to white officers. Women officers are significantly less likely to arrest and use force against civilians, and especially against Black civilians, relative to men.

Body cameras worn by police officers also may have a positive impact on reducing use of force. New evidence strongly suggests body cameras can reduce police use of force and civilian complaints when worn by officers who do not have discretion over when the cameras are turned on and off.

“A key takeaway from our analysis is that while policies matter, the culture and context of the police department and the community it serves are also important factors in police violence. This can make it hard to determine if a community has low rates of police violence because of a specific set of policies, because of healthier intergroup dynamics, or both,” said Ostfeld, associate faculty director of Poverty Solutions, the research director of U-M’s Center for Racial Justice and an assistant research scientist.

“Overall, we need better data in order to analyze the effectiveness of proposed police reforms and better understand how to improve public safety for all U.S. residents.”

Policy brief: Evidence on Measures to Reduce Excessive Use of Force by the Police

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Public bank could address Chicago residents’ complaints about private bankers, lenders

Lauren Slagter,
Jared Wadley, 734-834-7719,

CHICAGO—New research from the University of Michigan points to the potential of public banking to better serve the financial needs of Chicago residents as the volume of complaints about private banking services has increased exponentially over the past decade.

Terri Friedline, U-M associate professor of social work and faculty affiliate of Poverty Solutions, worked with Ameya Pawar, a fellow with the Open Society Foundations and the Economic Security Project, to analyze 40,645 complaints about financial products and services made by Chicago residents to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau between 2011 and 2022.

A new policy brief summarizes their findings and outlines considerations for a public bank in Chicago.

The number of consumer complaints rose from 785 in 2012—the first full year of operation for the CFPB’s Consumer Complaints Database—to 7,070 in 2021 and 7,696 in the first eight months of 2022, when the researchers began their analysis. The complaints came from residents of 67 ZIP codes in Chicago, and the researchers incorporated demographic data for those ZIP codes to analyze trends in the types of complaints filed by different populations.

“People need financial products and services to pay bills, send money to friends and relatives, buy a house and start businesses,” Friedline said. “Unfortunately, private banks and lenders often provide financial products on expensive and exploitative terms—especially to people who are poor and racially marginalized. The CFPB Consumer Complaints Database offers insights into how Chicago residents experience harms and problems from private banks and lenders.”

The analysis found a majority of complaints (64%) had to do with credit. The next largest categories of complaints were related to debt collection (12%), bank accounts (9%) and mortgages (8%). Credit increased in prominence as a percentage of overall complaints, rising from 23% in 2012 to 66% in 2021. This contrasts with the patterns of complaints about bank accounts and mortgages, which both comprised larger shares of overall complaints in 2012 and declined on average over time.

Chicago’s residents with low incomes and Black residents submitted complaints about credit-related products and services—for example, unauthorized charges on a credit card or incorrect information on a credit report—at substantially higher rates than their wealthier and white counterparts. More affluent and whiter communities submitted more complaints about bank accounts and mortgages than disproportionately poorer and racially marginalized communities.

Among the ZIP codes with the lowest poverty rates, 52% of total complaints have to do with credit, compared to 72% among ZIP codes with the highest poverty rates in the city. Similarly, 51% of total complaints among ZIP codes with the smallest shares of Black residents have to do with credit, compared to 72% among ZIP codes with the largest shares of Black residents.

“The analysis reveals differences in the types of financial products used by different populations and the problems they experience with those products,” Pawar said. “When we consider these complaints alongside evidence of historic and contemporary racist lending practices, it is evident that private banks and lenders are not equipped to support Chicago residents’ full and equal participation in the economy.”

Public banking is one idea for mitigating the harms and problems Chicago residents experience from private banks and lenders, according to the researchers. A public bank is a locally and democratically governed institution that can serve as the city’s fiscal agent; support a variety of banking products and services like bank accounts, credit and mortgage lending; and invest in the types of development communities need.

Rather than borrowing expensive debt from private lenders or using a private bank as a fiscal agent that reinvests profits elsewhere, the city of Chicago could establish a public bank mandated to invest locally and equitably, the researchers say. A public bank could be designed to equip Chicago residents with easy-to-access and inexpensive bank accounts, credit cards, home mortgages and business loans.

The researchers note the importance of gauging residents’ interest in establishing a public bank and having residents lead its design.

Policy brief: Can a Public Bank Redress the Private Banking Industry’s Harms to Chicago Residents? An Analysis of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Complaints Database

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December Jobs Report: Healthy Job Market Increasingly Matches Pre-Pandemic Employment Patterns

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter
Contact: Jeff Karoub,
Benny Docter,

Employers added 223,000 jobs in December 2022, capping a year marked by record low unemployment and high job growth. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5% with a slight increase in the labor force participation rate and employment rate, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The private sector industries slowest to recover from the pandemic continue to drive job growth. Leisure and hospitality services accounted for 30% of job growth this month, and yet employment in the sector continues to be 5.5% below February 2020 levels. Similarly, health and social services such as child care and nursing care have been slow to fully recover and both have shown ongoing strong growth in recent months.

“Data on hiring and employment continues to highlight the strength of the economy and makes it clear that economic growth in the wake of the pandemic is continuing. Fears that we are in a recession are unwarranted,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

1. Average monthly job growth for 2022 was the second highest in history

Average monthly job growth in 2021 exceeded that of any previous year on record, reflecting the need to add back jobs that were lost in 2020 and support the strong v-shaped recovery. 2022 was the second fastest year on record for job growth. While the pace of job growth slowed over the course of 2022, the average for the final three months of 2022 was 247,000 jobs per month, a rate that exceeds the pace of job growth for much of the 21st century. The challenge for the labor market is that the 2022 pace of job growth is unsustainable without a large expansion in available workers. The recovery in the number of workers available and seeking work has been much slower than the recovery in the number of jobs available.

2. A stronger recovery in labor force participation is needed to support ongoing job growth


Few groups have experienced a full recovery in labor force participation. Younger people were the most likely to exit the labor force during the pandemic, and they have yet to fully recover to their pre-pandemic labor force participation rates. While their participation rates bounced back quickly in 2020, a stubborn gap emerged for both young men and women that has shown little movement over the past two years despite the record tight labor market.

By age and gender, only women ages 35 to 44 had a labor force participation rate in December 2022 that exceeded their participation rate in February 2020. By mid-2022, prime age women, those ages 25-54, had a participation rate equal to their pre-pandemic rate, but in recent months their participation rate slipped. Prime age men’s labor force participation also remains below their pre-pandemic rate, although those who are slightly older have had the greatest recovery.

Adults over the age of 55 had a much smaller decline in their labor force participation but it has not significantly narrowed since it emerged.

Taken together, labor force participation rates for both men and women, particularly among younger and older men and women, have yet to fully recover. Labor force entry tends to occur slowly, and there is little sign that the tight labor market in 2022 did much to speed entry rates. However, without an increase in the labor force, employers will find it increasingly difficult to hire workers with the unemployment rate at a 50-year low.

3. Job growth is slowing in the industries that have expanded the most

Business and professional services and information services lost jobs in December 2022. Widespread reports of layoffs in the tech sector over the past few months suggested a significant slowdown in the information sector, but December marked the first month of a net decline in employment. The sector had grown nearly 6%above its February 2020 level, and many companies have reported that they “overhired” in response to the surge in demand for information technology services during the pandemic.

Similarly, employment in business and professional services also grew robustly over the past two years, expanding by 5% over its February 2020 level before showing slight declines in November and December 2022.

4. Caregiving jobs are continuing to recover

One of the slowest areas of the economy to recover has been caregiving. Child care, nursing care, social assistance, and overall health care employment was slow to recover in 2021. Nursing care and child care in particular began 2022 well below their pre-pandemic levels of employment. These sectors grew strongly in 2022, and while they ended the year still below their pre-pandemic peaks, strong employment growth in the latter part of the year suggests growth in these sectors will continue in 2023.

The health care sector was a driver of job growth in the pre-pandemic era. Between 2015 and the start of the pandemic, job growth in health care and education services accounted for 26%of overall private sector employment growth. And yet in 2021, it accounted for only 9% of job growth and had not fully recovered all the sector’s lost jobs from the pandemic until the fall of 2022. Overall, growth in health and education services grew more sharply in 2022 than 2021, accounting for 21% of all job growth over the year. The growth continued through the end of the year, and in December, job growth in the sector accounted for 35%of all job growth.

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis is conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.

Ostfeld appointed research director of the Center for Racial Justice

Courtesy of the Ford School

Political scientist Dr. Mara Celicia Ostfeld has been named the inaugural research director of the Center for Racial Justice (CRJ) at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. In this role, Ostfeld will lead the development of the center’s research infrastructure that informs research agendas, policy debate, and strategies in the pursuit of racial justice. Since joining the CRJ, Ostfeld has assembled a team of student researchers to analyze public opinion in some of Michigan’s largest cities, and produce policy briefs that amplify the voices of communities of color in policy discussions.

“My vision for the Center for Racial Justice is to expand the body of scholarship exploring the historical, current, and potential relationship between public policy and racial equity,” says Ostfeld. “We seek to approach this work with an eye towards evidence-based solutions. Equally important, we seek to cultivate and support early-career scholars that share a desire to advance this area of research.”

Ostfeld is an expert in survey research and public opinion analysis, with a particular focus on the relationship between race, gender, media and political attitudes. She serves as faculty lead of the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), an ongoing representative survey of Detroit households that explores and highlights the experiences, perceptions, priorities, and aspirations of local residents. Ostfeld is also designing and administering the first panel survey of a large, representative sample of Puerto Ricans living on the island. Working with colleagues at the University of Puerto Rico, the team will regularly collect, analyze and disseminate information on Puerto Rican attitudes toward a range of policies, and Puerto Rican experiences.

“We are incredibly honored and excited to have Mara join the Center for Racial Justice as our research director. Mara’s analytical prowess, deep commitment to social justice, and many years of experience doing research at the intersection of race and poverty align with and bolster the mission and values of the CRJ,” said Celeste Watkins-Hayes, the founding director of the CRJ and interim dean of the Ford School.

“We cannot think of a better person to help shape and mold the CRJ’s research agenda. Mara’s expertise and leadership will guide our efforts in identifying evidence-based policy solutions with the potential to advance racial equity,” said Dominique Adams-Santos, associate director of the CRJ.

Ostfeld also serves as the associate faculty director and director of communications at Poverty Solutions, assistant research scientist at the Ford School, and a research associate at the Institute for Social Research’s Center for Political Studies. She is also an assistant professor of political science.

During national elections, Ostfeld also works as an analyst at NBC and Telemundo. Her work has been published in journals that include Social Forces, Political Behavior, Political Psychology and Political Communication, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and others.

Ostfeld holds a PhD and master’s degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania; a master’s of public policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Rutgers University.

About the Center for Racial Justice

The Center for Racial Justice is an innovative and cross-disciplinary hub in which social justice changemakers, scholars, and students work collaboratively to develop new tools and strategies in the pursuit of racial justice, resulting in better policy solutions and the cultivation of the next generation of high-impact leaders and thinkers. Housed at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, the center brings changemakers—organizational leaders, activists, artists, policy advocates, and policymakers—in direct and sustained conversation with some of the top scholars and students working at the intersection of race and public policy.

More from Dr. Ostfeld

Poverty Solutions Speaker Series: The Color of Power: The Evolving Relationship Between Race, Skin Color and American Politics
Michigan Minds Podcast: Puerto Rican Opinion Lab: Understanding How US Policies Affect Islanders

November Jobs Report: Strong Job Growth Continues, But There Are Hints of Weakness

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter
Contact: Benny Docter,

The U.S. labor market had yet another month of strong job growth, with employers adding 263,000 additional jobs in November. The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday also showed that the unemployment rate remained at 3.7%. Combined with an acceleration in wage growth in November, the report suggests an extremely tight labor market.

However, unlike the employer survey, the household survey showed a 186,000 decline in the number of people employed. Moreover, other data sources, such as the ADP estimate of job growth and company reports of layoffs, suggest slow downs in sectors that continued to grow in November according to the BLS estimate. These other data sources taken together with recent increases in continuing unemployment insurance claims suggest a slowly weakening labor market.

“The November report shows a very strong labor market, but the labor market may not be quite as tight as this report suggests,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

1. The Health and Education and Leisure and Hospitality sectors continue to lead job growth.

Leisure and hospitality expanded by 88,000 jobs, the largest of any sector, followed closely by education and health services, which added 82,000 jobs. These two sectors suffered a disproportionate number of pandemic-driven layoffs and a very lackluster early-pandemic recovery throughout 2020 and much of 2021. As of November, there are still 980,000 fewer jobs overall in leisure and hospitality compared to February 2020. Education and health services returned to pre-pandemic levels of employment in August, but remain nearly 850,000 jobs away from the sector's pre-pandemic trend growth.

The slow but continuous recovery in these sectors have driven much of the job growth in 2022. Of the 3.8 million jobs added overall in 2022, 42% have been in leisure and hospitality and education and health services.

Two sectors contracted in November on a seasonally adjusted basis: transportation and warehousing, and retail trade. Both sectors remain above their pre-pandemic employment peaks and above their pre-pandemic trend growth. The slowdown in these sectors match the broader trend of a slowdown in sectors that experienced above trend job growth coming out of the pandemic.

2. Information jobs continued to grow, despite widespread reports of layoffs in the tech sector.

High profile layoffs at big companies like Amazon, Facebook (Meta), and Twitter made the news recently, along with broader news of job losses across the tech industry. And yet, the BLS showed a continued expansion of jobs in information services at a rate well above the pre-pandemic trend. The reported layoffs may not yet be in the BLS data (which reflects who was on payroll the second week of November), or they may simply be small compared to the broader expansion of jobs in information services. Wage growth is more consistent with the latter as wage pressure in the information sector shows no sign of abating. Ongoing job and wage growth suggests the labor market remains extremely tight in the tech sector, which means those who have recently lost jobs should quickly find new ones.

3. Job growth is strongest in female-dominated sectors, leading women to gain more jobs than men.

Women gained 62% of the jobs added in November, a gender difference primarily driven by the fact that strong job growth occurred in education and health services, a heavily female-dominated sector. Women gained 75% of the jobs added in that sector in November, which is just under their share of the overall jobs in that sector. In leisure and hospitality, women hold just over half of all jobs, but in November nearly two-thirds of the job gains went to women.

Women continued to add jobs in construction, manufacturing, and mining and logging at a rate much higher than their overall share of jobs in those male-dominated sectors. Business and professional services experienced rapid growth coming out of the pandemic and the decline in jobs held by men may indicate the sector is likely to slow in the coming months. But for November, the jobs in business and professional services lost by men were more than made up for by an increase in jobs held by women in the sector. Retail, which lost jobs overall, lost jobs primarily held by women, while men saw an increase in jobs. This matches a shift that has occurred since the beginning of the pandemic in which the sector has seen its share of female workers decline.

4. Unemployment remained unchanged, but within the unemployed there are hints of an impending slowdown.

While the unemployment rate remained stable at 3.7%, the reasons people give for being unemployed is shifting toward job losers. Over the past three months the share of workers who are unemployed who report having been laid off has slowly risen, while the share who report having quit has fallen. Those who are unemployed because they have entered the labor force are also a shrinking share of the unemployed.

These are the patterns that we tend to see in a recession. As the unemployment rate rises, the share of the unemployed who are job losers tends to grow and the share who are job leavers or entrants to the labor force tends to fall. Over the past three months the unemployment rate has been largely stable and at near historic lows, however the subtle shifts in how people ended up being unemployed are suggestive of a slowing in the labor market.

5. Sickness-related work absences remain elevated.

One area to continue to watch is the elevated rate of workers out of work for sickness or child care-related reasons. The number of workers out of work for the entire week due to illness increased in November and is close to November 2021 levels. January 2022 was a historic high point in worker absenteeism, and while rates of workers being out sick have come down, they continue to be about 50% higher than prior to the pandemic. Staying home or working from home when sick can prevent the spread of illness, and research shows that it leads to fewer overall days of illness among employees. The ongoing health challenges faced around the globe are an impediment to productivity growth. Whether at home or at work, sick workers tend to have lower productivity.

Paid sick leave can help mitigate the hardship of illness among workers and, in the long run, slow the spread of communicable diseases. Research has shown that paid sick leave slows the spread of illness, and that the expansions of paid sick leave during the pandemic helped slow the spread of COVID-19.

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis is conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.

75% of unemployed Detroiters expect to return to work soon as unemployment rate drops

Contact: Lauren Slagter,

DETROIT—As more Detroiters return to work amid the pandemic recovery, the greatest declines in unemployment have been for residents of color and people with low incomes—although those groups continue to experience higher-than-average unemployment rates.

A new issue brief from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study found Detroit’s unemployment rate continued to decline, reaching 16% in August. This marks a significant drop from the 20% unemployment rate reported by DMACS in November 2021, though the unemployment rate remains higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 8%. The unemployment rate is the proportion of adults in the labor force who are not working but are actively seeking work or believe they are likely to return to work soon.

DMACS calculates the unemployment rate from a representative survey of Detroit residents that asked whether they worked for pay in any capacity in the past month, their reason for not working, and whether they are looking for work. This differs from the method the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to estimate the unemployment rate, which relies on statistical models that use data from the Current Population Survey, payroll data, and unemployment insurance claims; BLS reported Detroit’s unemployment rate was 7% in September.

“DMACS and the Bureau of Labor Statistics use similar definitions of employment, unemployment and labor force. DMACS’s large sample of more than 2,000 Detroiters means we can measure the employment situation in the city based on the direct experiences of residents. This is distinct from estimates based on smaller samples and statistical models. As a result, DMACS offers a more thorough picture of the local labor market,” said Lydia Wileden, research associate with DMACS and author of the Employment Dynamics in Detroit issue brief.

Among Black and Latino Detroiters in the labor market, unemployment dropped from 23% in November 2021 to 17% in August, according to the DMACS survey. The unemployment rate for white Detroiters rose slightly during that time, from 6% to 8%. Detroiters of color—who account for the majority of the city’s residents—still are twice as likely to be unemployed as white Detroiters in the labor force.

The unemployment rate dropped significantly for residents with low incomes as well, from 43% in November 2021 to 32% in August for people making less than $30,000 a year. Despite this drop, Detroiters with low incomes are nearly four times as likely to be unemployed as residents with annual incomes between $30,000 and $60,000.

The survey found that 75% of unemployed Detroiters expect to return to work in the next month. This is in line with DMACS findings from November 2021 when a similar proportion of unemployed Detroiters expected to quickly return to work. Among residents who are unemployed, 57% report they have been out of work for less than a year, while 27% say they have been out of work for one to three years.

“The data suggest Detroit residents remain confident in the availability of jobs,” Wileden said. “Not only are unemployed residents looking to reengage with the workforce, but employed residents are actively seeking out better opportunities.”

Forty-five percent of Detroiters in the labor force—including 36% of those currently employed and 87% of those unemployed—report actively looking for work in the past month. This is roughly equivalent to job searching behavior reported in November 2021.

Ten percent of Detroiters said they currently earn money through gig work, which includes driving for ride-hailing apps, delivering groceries or restaurant food, and performing household tasks.

Issue brief: Employment Dynamics in Detroit

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Bringing it home: improving tomorrow’s living environments

By Anissa Gabbara | Art by Kara Fields

U-M experts discuss the challenges of creating affordable, quality housing and leading the charge for reform

ANN ARBOR – Access to quality housing is essential to our well-being and the gateway to resources. Unfortunately, this basic necessity remains out of reach for far too many families, creating an ongoing crisis plaguing millions of Americans. In fact, in 2020, 30% of all U.S. households had “unaffordable” rent or mortgage payments, defined as exceeding 30% of monthly household income.*

Jonathan Massey, Dean, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

“Since the housing crisis is an intersectional and multidimensional issue, it’s important that we identify the most promising, and sometimes the most daring, strategies to tackle each of those issues to integrate them in new visions for how we house our families and communities,” said Jonathan Massey, dean and professor of architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

And with its tremendous breadth of researchers, faculty, and students combined with robust community partnerships, U-M is uniquely positioned to lead the charge.

“Housing is just an incredibly central piece of the stability of families. Understanding who has access to certain neighborhoods and who has access to housing stock is critical, and the University of Michigan has a lot of expertise here,” said Luke Shaefer, Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy, professor of social work, and director of U-M’s Poverty Solutions.

A slew of challenges

Three major problem areas surround our current living environments:

  • Affordability, especially as the cost of housing is rapidly rising. This can be attributed to low and unstable incomes, and a short supply of affordable housing, resulting in a spike in home prices—and, in many cases, homelessness. Additionally, the cost of home repairs to improve living environments adds an extra burden on many homeowners.
  • Health, specifically the effects of lead exposure caused by toxic legacy infrastructures that contaminate drinking water, as well as lead-based paint in older homes polluting the air.
  • Sustainability issues stemming from home design and construction. Massey notes that between 30 and 40% of total human carbon emissions come from the built environment.

In addition to these overarching issues, Massey sees housing as one of the mechanisms that produces and sustains racial disparities in health, wealth, education, employment, and overall life opportunity.

What’s more, the broader issue of homelessness has a significant impact on educational outcomes. This is a key focus area for Shaefer.

“The subgroup among public school students in the state of Michigan that has the most difficulty in school is homeless children, who are the most likely to be chronically absent, so they’re not getting to school to begin with,” Shaefer said.

A holistic approach

Mending matters of this magnitude can’t happen overnight. But U-M sees an opportunity to harness its extensive research and practice knowledge from across campus to improve living environments for all. The Collective for Equitable Housing (CEH) is one of the most visible efforts. Established in 2021 as the first platform for Taubman College and U-M to study housing holistically, CEH builds upon cross-campus relationships, as well as institutional, governmental, and organizational partnerships.

Sharon Haar, Professor of Architecture

“The goal is to build upon capacities at Taubman College and interact with others across the university to develop more interdisciplinary and actionable research that can put forth propositions for how to transform financing, policy, or regulatory barriers that have big impacts on the provision of affordable housing,” said Sharon Haar, professor of architecture at the Taubman College.

Leveling the playing field

Before the pandemic, Poverty Solutions and Taubman faculty discovered that in one Michigan county, only 4% of people being evicted had access to legal counsel. This data shows a lack of protections in place for families facing eviction.

H. Luke Shaefer

Luke Shaefer, Director, Poverty Solutions

“We’ve been looking at proposals for right to counsel where if somebody is facing eviction—maybe they should be evicted, maybe they shouldn’t—they deserve to have a lawyer,” Shaefer said.

Another startling statistic? Since 2008, nearly one-third of Detroit homes have been lost to tax foreclosure, as policies that were meant to help families stay in their homes became difficult to access.

“As part of a massive coalition, our scholars were part of bringing some evidence-based changes to those policies, and it’s really increased the number of people who’ve been able to access them,” Shaefer said.

Investing in the future

In 2016, Taubman College partnered with the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department (PDD) to re-envision local neighborhoods with the launch of Systems Studio. U-M students were assigned to work at targeted sites that were deemed a priority by PDD, thinking of innovative ways to design housing, while also considering social and economic aspects, such as inclusive housing and affordability.

“Students were working on real sites that were going to be developed, doing research and first passes at urban design opportunities, density, and programs, and what might actually happen there,” Haar said.

Students present their final projects to faculty, staff from Detroit PDD, and other invited guests during a final review in the Systems Studio class.

When it comes to mitigating the negative effects of climate change, architecture faculty at U-M are collaborating with the College of Engineering to test out new construction methods that specifically aim to reduce carbon outputs from construction, such as the use of timber, which emits a significantly lower amount of carbon than concrete or steel. These new building methods also use digital-design tools and digital fabrication, such as robotics for 3D printing and human-robot collaborations in building construction.

Furthermore, Poverty Solutions has pushed to make home repair resources available in Detroit for projects like lead abatement work and replacing roofs to weatherize homes. In fact, former research assistant Ryan Ruggiero (MPP ’19) created a resource guide that lists available home repair programs in the city, what they provide, and who’s eligible. According to Shaefer, it’s one of Poverty Solutions’ most successful publications.

A communal effort

To aid in U-M’s initiatives and connect them with the Detroit community to support collective work in this space, the Rocket Community Fund and the McGregor Fund, among others, have taken up the gauntlet.

“The University of Michigan has been a critical partner in ensuring that we understand the impact of existing programs, as well as the gaps that must be addressed to better support Detroit residents,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund. “U-M research has helped us evaluate tax foreclosure prevention programs, bolster homeownership, and define next steps in complex issues like increasing access to home repair.”

Vanessa Samuelson (BS ’02), director of learning and reports at the McGregor Fund, sees philanthropic support as a bridge that connects U-M’s resources directly with communities already addressing homelessness and the housing crisis.

“Philanthropy can pay for resources for community-based work to end homelessness that public funding sources often don’t—resources that can amplify the voices and wisdom of community, connect local action to centers of power, and support learning processes that reflect on what is working, how, and why,” Samuelson said.

Pioneering change

Confronting the housing crisis takes an all-hands-on-deck approach, and Massey believes that U-M’s unparalleled capacity can ignite a housing transformation.

“Every part of a great research university like Michigan has a role to play in tackling the housing crisis,” Massey said. “For instance, we need the policy insights of the Ford School, we need the construction expertise of engineers and scientists and architects, we need the design ingenuity of the architect, and we need the understanding of communities from the School of Social Work. Ultimately, the School of Education knows a lot about what kinds of communities and school systems are going to foster the success of the people who live in the housing. Not every university can offer you access to the very leading edge of innovation the way University of Michigan can.”

*According to Harvard University’s 2022 State of the Nation’s Housing report, sponsored by Habitat for Humanity.



Report Reveals 311,961 Children Under Age Three Are Estimated to Be Experiencing Homelessness Across Twenty U.S. States, Only 7% Are Enrolled In An Early Childhood Program

Contact: Devin McMahon,, (310) 266-5849

The prevalence of homelessness amongst infants and toddlers was unknown until now.

Washington, D.C. — National non-profit SchoolHouse Connection, in partnership with Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, released Infant and Toddler Homelessness: Data on Prevalence and Access to Early Learning Programs Across 20 U.S. States, a report revealing the first estimate of homelessness among infants and toddlers in twenty states, as well as gaps in access to early learning programs. This first-of-its-kind analysis finds that an estimated 311,961 children under the age of three were experiencing homelessness in 2020-2021 across 20 states, representing approximately 3% of the 0-3 population. Furthermore, only 7% of these children were enrolled in an early childhood program (Early Head Start, Child Care, or Parents as Teachers Home Visiting). This means that an estimated 289,741 infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness were not identified by early learning programs in these states; many may not even be enrolled.

An estimate of homelessness amongst the very youngest — infants and toddlers — has thus far been unknown. The most current data on child homelessness is from the U.S. Department of Education, which estimates that approximately 1.3 million children under the age of six experienced homelessness in 2018-2019; however, these data are not disaggregated by age.

Said Jennifer Erb-Downward, Director of Housing Stability Programs and Policy Initiatives at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan: “If we are going to be able to ensure that infants and toddlers have the support that they need to thrive, we must understand the challenges that they and their parents are facing. Until now, we have not been able to answer the question of how many children ages 0-3 are experiencing homelessness or whether these children are being identified and served by our early childhood programs. The numbers in this report give us a place to start and are a call to action.”

There are many reasons why families experiencing homelessness may have difficulty accessing high-quality early learning programs. For some, the documentation required for enrollment is too burdensome, as they may have lost access to birth certificates, immunization records, and employment verification documents. Other families may be discouraged by being placed on a long waiting list, or may have trouble understanding how to begin the process of enrollment. Lack of transportation to enroll and to participate may stand in the way.

“The low enrollment of infants and toddlers experiencing homelessness in high-quality early learning programs demands action at every level,” said Erin Patterson, Director of Education Initiatives at SchoolHouse Connection. “Early learning programs can change the life trajectory of a child and their family, but this report shows that families experiencing homelessness still do not have access to these opportunities. We hope this is the beginning of broader systems change work to support infants, toddlers, and families experiencing homelessness. Our children deserve better.”

“At SchoolHouse Connection, we know that early childhood education is an over-looked long-term strategy for overcoming homelessness,” said Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection. “Homelessness is particularly injurious to our youngest children, with lasting consequences. If we are to prevent longer-term impacts of infant and toddler homelessness, educators, providers, and policymakers must collaborate around solutions that give every child the support necessary to thrive.”

The report’s data was collected from 20 states — AR, CA, DC, IL, LA, MD, MI, NC, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, WA, and WI — that receive funding from PCI to increase the number of infants, toddlers, and their families receiving high-quality services by at least 50% by 2025.

SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan estimated the total number of children ages 0-3 experiencing homelessness in each state by multiplying the total population of children ages 0-3 reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2020 Kids Count by the percent of first graders identified as experiencing homelessness in the 2020-21 school year as reported by the U.S. Department of Education. While using the U.S. Department of Education data on homelessness provides a close to population level count, this approach still yields a conservative estimate of the experience of homelessness among very young children, because the risk of experiencing homelessness is known to be greater for very young children compared to children in elementary school, and the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in fewer children being identified as homeless in school year 2020-21. For more information about methodology and data sources, refer to Appendix A in the full report.

About SchoolHouse Connection
SchoolHouse Connection is a national non-profit organization working to overcome homelessness through education. We provide strategic advocacy and practical assistance in partnership with schools, early childhood programs, institutions of higher education, service providers, families, and youth. Our vision is that children and youth experiencing homelessness have full access to quality learning, birth through higher education, so they will never be homeless as adults, and the next generation will never be homeless. To learn more, please visit
School House Connection


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New website answers child care providers’ questions about Michigan child care subsidy

Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027,
Jared Wadley,

Researchers interviewed parents, providers in Emmet, Washtenaw, Wayne counties to identify barriers to subsidy use

ANN ARBOR—A new website answers child care providers’ frequently asked questions about Michigan’s Child Development and Care Subsidy—an underused resource that can help families pay for child care.

The University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions developed the Updated Michigan Child Development and Care Subsidy, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to support child care providers in completing the necessary steps to accept the subsidy. Michigan made a number of changes to its child care subsidy program in the past year, and the website provides information on how to accept the subsidy, the licensing process, payment rates and more.

In 2022, Michigan expanded eligibility for the child care subsidy to another 105,000 families. However, only about 10% of children under age 12 in eligible households receive child care subsidies, according to Poverty Solutions’ Barriers to Benefits child care study. Other families who apply and receive the subsidy do not use it, in part due to Michigan’s child care shortage.

Analyses by Poverty Solutions found there are about four children for every available child care spot in Michigan. More than 40% of Michiganders live in areas considered “child care deserts,” or areas with more than 50 children under age 5 with no child care providers or more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots.

“Child care is an essential part of economic development and can play a major role in addressing social inequities. But if we are going to encourage families to use the Child Development and Care Subsidy, we need to make sure child care providers are ready to accept it,” said William Lopez, clinical assistant professor at U-M’s School of Public Health and senior adviser at Poverty Solutions, who worked on the Barriers to Benefits study.

“The Updated Michigan Child Development and Care Subsidy website presents essential information about the subsidy program in a user-friendly way, specifically addressing the questions of child care providers.”

Through 2023, income eligibility for Michigan’s Child Development and Care Subsidy is raised to 185% of the federal poverty level—about $51,000 a year for a family of four. The annual cost for center-based care for an infant is about $13,548, or about 14% of median income for a married couple in Michigan. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child care is considered affordable if it costs no more than 7% of a household’s income.

To better understand why more families do not access and use Michigan’s Child Development and Care Subsidy, Poverty Solutions researchers conducted 41 interviews with parents of children under 18 and professionals who work for organizations that provide child care, support the operations of child care centers or advocate for child care resources. A policy brief by Lopez, Karen Kling and Amanda Nothaft summarizes findings from the interviews and makes policy recommendations to address barriers to using the child care subsidy.

“We learned child care can be impossible to find for people working jobs that require flexible schedules, like servers in restaurants or in the seasonal tourism industry,” said Kling, senior strategic projects manager at Poverty Solutions. “Parents were frustrated with the ‘catch-22’ of needing to be employed to qualify for the child care subsidy but being unable to take a job without child care.”

There are a few exceptions to the work requirement for the child care subsidy, including if the parent is completing high school, engaged in a family preservation activity like a counseling program, or engaged in another approved activity like attending college or employment training. The researchers recommend allowing parents actively searching for employment to receive the child care subsidy and shortening the 30-day application processing period so parents could start using the subsidy more quickly after receiving a job offer.

Other barriers when applying for the child care subsidy include extensive paperwork requirements, language barriers, distrust of the government and a reliance on internet-based applications. Immigrants face a complicated web of eligibility requirements for government assistance, often being eligible for some assistance programs, but not others, depending on their immigration status.

Applying for the child care subsidy requires proof of income, value of assets, marital status, evidence of receipt of child support and more. Parents with tenuous relationships with co-parents, including domestic violence survivors, often avoid applying for the child care subsidy because they have to attempt to claim child support through the court system before they can receive the subsidy.

“People are doing things very informally, as opposed to having someone from the state coming in,” said one mother interviewed for the study. “Working for Head Start, I know about all of the requirements to be a licensed school or center. You have to have the handbook, (be limited to only so many) kids in a room, and things like that. I don’t think most people would want that coming into their home when they’re just (working) informally with people in their community or through word of mouth, just like dropping the kid off and not having to worry about all that stuff.”

Sometimes, the study finds, child care providers do not accept subsidies because they worry parents will lose their eligibility and be unable to pay for care.

For some providers, the complexity of the application process and the investment needed to meet the state’s quality standards presented costs that outweighed the benefits of the subsidy program. This is particularly true for license-exempt providers, who have a maximum reimbursement rate of $5.50 per hour per child for toddlers and infants; at the top of the reimbursement scale, licensed child care centers with five-star quality ratings receive $10.65 per hour per child for toddlers and infants.

Researchers recommended reducing application materials to make the process more welcoming for child care providers and parents and extending the time between recertifications even further so families retain their eligibility for more than one year.

“Michigan has made progress toward increasing access to the Child Development and Care subsidy,” said Nothaft, senior data and evaluation manager at Poverty Solutions. “To support the growth of healthy, stable families in the years to come, additional efforts are needed to address the absence of available child care, decrease application challenges and increase application accessibility.”

Policy brief: The Child Development and Care Subsidy: Challenges and Opportunities


October Jobs Report: Ongoing strength in labor market has led to inclusive recovery

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter
Contact: Benny Docter,
Jeff Karoub,

The labor market remains strong as industries that have lagged in the recovery continue to expand hiring. In October 2022, the U.S. added 261,000 jobs. While the rate of job growth rate has slowed from the fast pace of recovery in 2021 and early 2022, job growth remains well above the pre-pandemic average job growth of 164,000 jobs per month in 2019.

While the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% in October from 3.5% in September, the unemployment rate has bounced between 3.5 and 3.7% since March and remains near record lows. Record job openings continue to support hiring across a range of industries helping workers throughout the country return to employment. The recovery has been strong enough to benefit the most vulnerable workers, with low unemployment and recovered or recovering labor force participation among all groups of workers.

“After the passage of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan, critics derided generous pandemic aid programs benefiting workers, unemployed people, and families. A key part of that argument held that support programs would weaken recipients’ attachment to the workforce. Instead this support helped fuel a rapid economic rebound that in turn has led to a nearly complete labor market recovery. Most importantly, pandemic aid prevented the type of long-term labor market scarring that occurred in the wake of the 2008 recession,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Unemployment rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels for workers with all levels of education.

Unemployment rates have fallen for all education groups back to the historically low levels that occurred just before the pandemic began. Less educated workers faced steeper job loss in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic as they were more likely to hold precarious jobs with work that could not be done remotely. The unemployment rate for those without a college degree soared to 17.6% among high school graduates and 15.3% for those with some college. These workers have had steeper declines in unemployment, but less educated workers continue to face more unemployment than college graduates. In October, the unemployment rate of college graduates remained below 2%, while 3% of those with some college, and 3.9% of those with no college were unemployed.

College educated workers have driven the recovery in labor force participation.

In October, the labor force participation rate of college graduates ticked down to 72.8% from 73% in September, yet the labor force participation rate of college graduates has nearly fully recovered to pre-pandemic rates. In contrast, the labor force participation rates of those with only a high school degree or some college, remain roughly 2 percentage points below their February 2020 levels. These declines exacerbate the large differences in labor force participation by education that existed prior to the pandemic.

Differences in the recovery are even more pronounced when we look at the labor force participation rate of prime-age workers–those 25-54 years old–by education. While these data are not available with the initial release, the following figure shows the average labor force participation among prime-age adults by education in the third quarter of each year between 2017 and 2022. By the third quarter of 2022, labor force participation among prime-age college graduates had returned to their 2019 rates. The quick recovery among college graduates reflects the fact that they also had the smallest decline in labor force participation at the onset of the pandemic. In contrast, labor force participation rates fell more sharply among those with less than a bachelor’s degree. Among prime-age workers with a high school degree or less, labor force participation rates began to recover in 2021 and more sharply in 2022. Among prime-age workers with some college, labor force participation rates only began to recover in 2022. This pattern of a slower recovery for workers with less education matches that seen in previous recessions. Today’s prime-age workers without a college degree have labor force participation rates similar to their 2017 labor force participation rates. The current labor market recovery has been much faster and it is likely their labor force participation will continue to recover in the coming months if the labor market remains strong.


After the pandemic, Black and Hispanic adults have higher labor force participation than white adults.

The initial 2020 shock hit people of color hardest, partly because they were more likely to work in-person and service-sector jobs. However, their labor force participation rates have recovered more quickly than that of white adults. As a result, among people ages 20 and up, white people have the lowest labor force participation. Much of this is driven by longer-run trends in aging, and these differences flip when we focus on prime-age workers. However, the short run changes during the pandemic have played a role as well. White people had a much weaker labor force recovery, gaining back the smallest share (52%) of their initial pandemic drop, compared with 72% for Black people and 58% for Hispanic people.

This month the labor force participation rate of white people ages 20 and older stayed the same at 63.5%, while the rate among Black people ages 20 and older ticked down to 64.5% from 64.7%, and the rate for Hispanic people was unchanged at 69.5%.

In particular, prime-aged women of color are more likely to be in the labor force than prior to the pandemic.

Across the board, women have had the most complete labor force participation recovery. Because data on prime-age workers by race is not seasonally adjusted, a single month of data isn’t very informative. Therefore our figure compares August through October of 2022 to the same three months in 2019. Prime-age Black women have experienced the largest increase in labor force participation compared with their labor force participation in the same period prior to the pandemic. Black women have historically had a higher labor force participation rate than white women or Hispanic women, but those gaps have grown during the recovery from the pandemic. This recovery occurred despite the pandemic’s lasting impact in hotels, restaurants, and care facilities, as well as many other industries that employ a disproportionate number of women (and Black and Hispanic women in particular). In the face of what are still reduced employment numbers in these industries, relatively high prime-age labor force participation rates denote the flexibility of women in finding employment in whatever sectors are hiring.

October brought growth of nearly 5,000 workers in child care.

While women, particularly prime-age women, have fully returned to the workforce, they are doing so with less support from formal child care. In April 2020, child care employment declined by 35%, more than twice the 15% decline across all non-farm employers. The recovery in child care employment has been much weaker than the economy overall. In July, overall employment surpassed its pre-pandemic peak, while employment in child care was still nearly 10% below its pre-pandemic peak. Recovery in the child care sector had slowed since the summer of 2022, making today’s job gains a significant increase compared to the last three months. In October, the addition of 4,900 child care workers narrowed the gap to 8.4% below the pre-pandemic peak. Continued hiring in child care will likely require increasing wages for workers in this sector as child care workers are some of the lowest paid workers. As a result, families who rely on affordable child care continue to face challenges fully participating in the labor market.

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis is conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.