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Speaker series to cover reparations, human-centered design, health impacts of oppression

Contact: Karissa Knapp,

ANN ARBOR—This fall, the Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions Speaker Series will feature poverty experts in both policy and practice, who will explore critical issues like: the effects of systemic oppression on health, reforming public institutions through human-centered design, reparations, and financial empowerment in Detroit.

The series is hosted by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, a university-wide presidential initiative that aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research.

U-M researcher Arline Geronimus, professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health, will be starting the series on Friday, Sept. 22. Geronimus will share her research on the effects of systemic oppression on the body. Her book on the subject – Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society – came out earlier this year.

Poverty Solutions is partnering with various university departments to invite this diverse set of speakers to discuss different approaches to addressing poverty in this year’s seven-week series.

All events are free and open to the public, and will take place at noon on Fridays in room ECC 1840 at the School of Social Work, unless otherwise noted. U-M students can enroll in a course to earn one credit for attending the speaker series. 

Here’s the speaker series lineup:

  • Sept. 22 – “Weathering: The extraordinary stress of ordinary life in an unjust society” by Arline Gerominus, professor of health behavior and health education, School of Public Health, U-M.
  • Sept. 29 – “The United States pays reparations every day—just not to Black America?” by Cornell William Brooks, Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations, professor of the practice of public leadership and social justice, Harvard University.
  • Oct. 6 – “The power in a single story: Scaling social change by focusing on individuals” by Adam Selzer, co-founder and senior director of Civilla Detroit.
  • Oct. 13 – “Chelsea Eats: Basic income and food security” by Jeff Liebman, director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government; Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Social Policy, Harvard University.
  • Special date and location: 12:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Michigan Union – “Incarceration and its aftermath: How art can create pathways to reintegration and healing” by Reuben Miller and Nicole Fleetwood, MacArthur Fellows. Miller is an associate professor of social work, University of Chicago, and Fleetwood is a professor of media, New York University.
  • Oct. 20 – “Creating green energy and equitable enterprise in Detroit” by Jerry Davis, Gilbert and Ruth Whitaker Professor of Business Administration, professor of management and organizations, U-M Ross School of Business.
  • Oct. 27 – “Creating moves to opportunity: Experimental and mixed methods evidence on neighborhood choice” by Stefanie DeLuca, James Coleman Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, Johns Hopkins University.
  • Nov. 3 – Poverty Solutions alumni panel


Mapping poverty in America: Shaefer’s new book explores “The Injustice of Place”

Contact: Daniel Rivkin,

America is rife with “internal colonies,” where systemic violence, resource extraction, and corruption among decision makers have contributed to generations of poverty and disadvantage. These communities suffer from environmental degradation, lack of services, and shortened life expectancy, and they are spread across a wide swath of the country: from Appalachia, to the Tobacco Belt of Virginia and the Carolinas, the Cotton Belt in the South, and South Texas.

These areas are the focus of a new book by the Ford School’s Luke Shaefer, The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America, (Harper Collins, August 2023) which links economic data, health outcomes, and local history and traditions. Shaefer, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy and director of Poverty Solutions, co-authored the book with Kathryn Edin, a sociology professor, and Timothy Nelson, director of undergraduate studies in sociology, both at Princeton.

Shaefer and Edin previously collaborated on $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (Mariner Books, 2016), which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

The places highlighted in The Injustice of Place were identified by an Index of Deep Disadvantage developed by Shaefer, Edin, and Nelson. The index represents a holistic look at disadvantage, using health indicators (life expectancy, low infant birth weight), poverty metrics (rates of poverty and deep poverty), and social mobility data (Opportunity Insights Mobility Metrics).

The researchers found most of the 100 most disadvantaged places in the country are rural, not inner cities. They have spent years immersing themselves in communities in these regions, getting to know the residents.

  • The communities they studied have common traits of unequal schooling, resource extraction, corruption, and bad governance.
  • Among the similarities the authors present:
  • When disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods strike, governmental assistance often deepens pre-existing divides, benefitting the “haves” and not the “have-nots.”
  • Many people think of rural America as predominantly white — but the most disadvantaged places in the nation are rural communities of color.
  • Americans living in disadvantaged communities can expect to die a decade earlier than those living in the most advantaged places.
  • In many rural places with the most significant levels of disadvantage, the rate of violent crime is equal to that of large cities like Chicago.

“We are now armed with new revelations about poverty and a new understanding of how deeply disadvantage is woven into the history and present-day fabric of particular places,” they write. The book “tells the stories of America’s internal colonies – where disadvantage has been endemic for generations – and calls us to envision a different future, where no corner of the country is left behind.”

See reviews of the book:

A powerful, alarming portrayal of how poverty remains entrenched in unfairly forgotten places across America, Kirkus Reviews

In America’s “internal colonies,” the poor die far younger than richer Americans, CBS News

Publishers Weekly

Detroit’s 16% unemployment rate driven by labor force rebounders

Lauren Slagter,
Morgan Sherburne, 734-647-1844,

ANN ARBOR—Sixteen percent of Detroit residents in the labor force were unemployed as of March 2023, according to the latest survey from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS).

The latest unemployment estimate essentially holds steady from the previous DMACS estimate in August 2022. Detroit’s unemployment peaked at 43% at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and remains higher than the estimated pre-pandemic unemployment rate of 8%.

The 16% unemployment rate is higher than estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which announced in May that Detroit’s April unemployment rate was 4.2%, down from 5.8% in March. BLS uses a statistical model to estimate the unemployment rate based on national survey data, payroll data, and unemployment insurance claims. DMACS surveyed a representative sample of 1,911 Detroit residents to ask about their employment situation, and results are weighted to represent the city’s population as a whole.

One potential driver of the higher unemployment rate estimate is labor force rebounders—people who would typically be identified as out of the labor force because they are retired, disabled, students, have family or personal obligations, or otherwise chose not to work but who appear to be re-entering the labor force.

DMACS counts these residents as in the labor force based on their job seeking, but whether one identifies as actively searching for work can be fluid. The inclusion or exclusion of this group from the labor force impacts the unemployment estimate. Omitting this group from the labor force lowers Detroit’s unemployment rate to 10%.

“The unemployment rate is often treated as a simple indicator of economic health. However, in this day and age of remote work, myriad entrepreneurial opportunities, gig work, limited availability of child care, and high demand for workers, understanding who is in and out of the labor force is a lot fuzzier than one might think,” said Lydia Wileden, research associate for DMACS who authored the new report.

“The DMACS survey asks Detroiters if they are working, why not, and if they are looking for work. What we find suggests a complicated picture.”

  • The report breaks Detroit’s labor market into four groups:
    Labor force non-participants (34% of adult Detroiters), who are out of the labor force because they are retired, disabled, students, have family or personal obligations, or otherwise chose not to work.
  • Employed people (55%), who report they have worked for pay or profit in the past month.
  • Unemployed people (6%), who have not worked for pay or profit in the past month because they were laid off, but they are actively searching for and available to work.
  • Labor force rebounders (5%), who are retired, disabled, students, have family or personal obligations, or otherwise chose not to work but report actively searching for a job in the past month.

Among labor force rebounders, the most common reason for leaving the labor force was health issues or disabilities (46%).

“Labor force rebounders are more likely to be younger and less-advantaged residents. What is driving them back toward the labor market? Our findings suggest that despite leaving the labor force in the past, they are seeking work again as a result of their financial precarity,” Wileden said.

The survey found 70% of these residents say they would be unable to cover an emergency $400 expense, 43% have an unmanageable amount of household debt, and 70% pay more than 30% of their income for housing.

The report also sheds light on the scale of remote work two years after the COVID-19 emergency declaration. Among employed Detroiters, 68% are working in person. The flexibility to work remotely is unequally distributed, with white residents, people making more than $60,000 a year, and those with at least a college degree being significantly more likely to work remotely compared to other residents.


New Michigan Medicine Program Seeks to Address Adolescent and Child Health-care Inequities

From C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital

Michigan Medicine has launched a first-of-its-kind program designed to identify and address equity issues for young patients and their families receiving care at U-M Health, throughout Michigan and across the nation.

The new Program for Equity in Adolescent and Child Health (PEACH) is supported by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, along with 10 clinical departments across Michigan Medicine, as well the Michigan Institute for Data Science, Office for Health Equity and Inclusion, Poverty Solutions, and Precision Health.

PEACH will help deliver equitable care for all pediatric patients and their families. Its leaders define equity issues as those within the control of the health system, either in care received or a patient or family’s experience. Equity issues could include differences in how patients and their families are treated relative to their gender, race and ethnicity, income, ability status, sexual orientation, weight status and more. These issues have been studied frequently in adults; however, there is limited research on them in pediatric populations, and even fewer interventions to address equity issues for kids and teens.

“I got tired of my research often describing problems for which I was only infrequently able to make a difference,” said PEACH founder and director Gary L. Freed, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatrician at Mott. “I started PEACH because I believe there are likely many instances where we in the health care system unintentionally treat people differently through our unconscious biases. If we find those instances and develop improvement strategies and protocols to change how we deliver care and patient experiences – things within our control – we can make a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

PEACH asks for faculty and staff to bring forward instances or situations where they believe an inequity may exist; PEACH will provide support to help explore these ideas, translate feasible ideas into research efforts, and then design and implement quality improvement programs to address any inequities identified.

Anyone from Mott or the supporting departments can bring potential areas of inequity forward to PEACH, regardless of their level of training or experience in research or improvement. The PEACH team will meet and assist them in facilitating and conducting a project. The team includes physicians, researchers, quality improvement specialists, data analysts and communications experts – all in place to support those who bring forward their ideas.

“The launch of the PEACH program fills me with a sense of hope,” said PEACH associate director Susan Woolford, M.D., M.P.H., a pediatrician at Mott. “So often one is involved with good work, but it is unlikely to bring about rapid change on a large scale. This feels different. With PEACH, we have the opportunity to impact significant outcomes for children across the health system and beyond. At a time when there are many symbolic initiatives to address inequities and disparities, PEACH is poised to make substantive changes.”

Although the work of PEACH starts at Michigan Medicine, PEACH leaders believe that pediatric equity issues are present in other health systems across the state and the country. Findings from PEACH projects will be disseminated to inform local, state, and national decision makers to provide actionable steps to identify and address inequities. Ultimately, the goal is to improve equity in pediatric care for all. Faculty and staff concerned about a pediatric equity issue that they have observed, experienced or even thought about – or if they just want to learn more – are encouraged to reach out by sending PEACH an email ( or by calling 734-615-7272.

More information is also available on the PEACH website, where people may submit an intake form to help the team take the best next steps on an equity project idea.

“Not only will PEACH bring about improvements for our patients, but it also democratizes research by providing the infrastructure to help anyone with an important question study the issue and address the inequities identified,” Woolford said. “This is truly a novel model for addressing the thorny issues of diversity and health inequities. It will be attractive for those wanting to work at an institution fully committed to all patients and will increase trust among families who rely upon us to be the leaders and the best in caring for their children.”

U-M’s Poverty Solutions takes an evidence-based approach to improving life in Detroit and beyond

By: Rick Haglund
Source: Special to Michigan News

Luke Shaefer is the director of Poverty Solutions, a university-wide initiative that partners hundreds of University of Michigan faculty experts and student researchers with community organizations and policymakers to alleviate poverty. Shaefer said about 50% of its work is in the city of Detroit, where Poverty Solutions has provided critical expertise in such areas as tax foreclosure, public health and auto insurance reform. Shaefer detailed some of that work in a recent interview.

Luke Shaefer

Luke Shaefer, Director of Poverty Solutions at U-M

What was the impetus for creating Poverty Solutions?

It began as a presidential initiative, actually. In 2016, there was a committee formed to put together a charge for an initiative on poverty. It was a wonderful committee with folks from all across the university who decided it was time to build on a really long and proud tradition of basic research on poverty, to now have a much more engaged program that would partner with communities and really try to test out strategies. So the mission was formed to partner with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty.

What have been some of those partnerships?

It was in the first year or two that we formed a partnership with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and his administration in the city called the Partnership on Economic Mobility. I think a lot of our most impactful work has been done in partnership with the mayor’s office and with the different city departments. We’ve done a great deal with housing and revitalization. We’ve worked a great deal with workforce development and with public health. So a lot of how we live out our mission happens in the city of Detroit.

What are some of the projects you’ve done that you’re most proud of?

Everything we work on is done in deep partnership with community groups and policymakers…

Read the full article via U-M Detroit >

Mott Foundation intends to grant up to $15 million to support direct payments to Flint mothers during pregnancy and first year of a child’s life

Contact: Sarah Schuch,, 810-280-7392

Flint, Michigan — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation intends to grant up to $15 million over three years to Michigan State University to support the launch of Rx Kids, an innovative initiative to provide direct cash payments to mothers in Flint during pregnancy and throughout the first year of a child’s life. The program is led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha at the MSU College of Human Medicine.

Through Rx Kids, families will be “prescribed” a total of $7,500 in cash. This will include a one-time $1,500 payment to expectant mothers in midpregnancy, followed by $500 per month for the first year of a child’s life. All pregnant women and infants who are residents of the city of Flint will be eligible for the program, regardless of the mother’s or family’s income, and families can spend the money in whatever way they think is best. It will be the first citywide program of its kind in the United States.

MSU plans to begin enrollment for the program in 2024 with the intent of continuing the initiative for at least five birth years of expectant mothers and newborns.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.
Photo: Courtesy of MSU

“We’re supporting Rx Kids because of the boldness of its approach to significantly reducing childhood poverty and associated negative health effects,” said Ridgway White, Mott Foundation president and CEO. “While similar projects elsewhere have focused on smaller or more unique cohorts, nothing like this has been done on a citywide scale. We’re excited to see how it could help children and families — both in Flint and throughout the country.”

According to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, Flint’s overall childhood poverty rate is approximately 50% — far above the state and national rates of approximately 16%. In many areas of Flint, the poverty rate for kids under 5 exceeds 80%. The impacts of poverty, the water crisis and the pandemic mean local children face daunting obstacles to growing up healthy.

By providing funds that families can use for whatever they need most, Rx Kids aims to disrupt a root cause of inequities and disparities while supporting families with dignity and trust during the developmentally crucial first year of a child’s life.

“Early childhood science has demonstrated the lifelong consequences of adversity, but also the promise of bold, preventative and justice-driven interventions,” said Hanna-Attisha, associate dean for public health and Charles Stewart Mott endowed professor of public health at the MSU College of Human Medicine. A nationally recognized pediatrician, Hanna-Attisha is the founding director of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model community-partnered program working to improve child health equity. “Driven by our visionary Flint parents and children, Rx Kids is a much-needed infusion of joy, hope and opportunity for the entire city. Rx Kids is another example of Flint shining a spotlight on injustice and rolling up our sleeves to systemically build a better tomorrow not just for Flint kids — but for kids and communities everywhere.”

Professor H. Luke Shaefer. Photo: Courtesy of University of Michigan

A collaboration between MSU and the University of Michigan, Rx Kids has partnered with a national expert on child allowances, Professor H. Luke Shaefer. As director of Poverty Solutions at U-M, Shaefer has a long record of working collaboratively with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty. He is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy and associate dean at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy.

“The evidence is piling up that direct cash payments to families with children are an incredibly effective way to reduce child poverty and improve health and well-being. Rx Kids takes this work to the next level,” said Shaefer. “We’re excited to see the immense good that can be accomplished by supporting all expectant and new mothers across the entire city of Flint, and to share these lessons with the nation.”

The groundbreaking initiative includes a growing list of partners and endorsers. The Greater Flint Health Coalition will serve as a key community partner, supporting outreach and increasing awareness of and participation in the program. Rx Kids will be administered by GiveDirectly, an international leader in direct cash transfers.

Rx Kids is expected to garner significant attention by contributing to the field of research on anti-poverty, prenatal and early childhood investments, and their effects on health equity, and by informing policy at the local, state and national levels.

The project is estimated to cost a total of $55 million for five birth years of mothers and babies. The Rx Kids team is actively pursuing additional public and private funding for the program. The Mott Foundation is structuring its intended support as a $15 million challenge grant — a one-to-one match that will unlock once Rx Kids raises an additional $15 million from other sources.

To learn more about Rx Kids, visit

Release courtesy of the Mott Foundation

March Jobs Report: Strong, if slowing, labor market continues as Black unemployment falls to a record low

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter

In March, employers added 236,000 jobs as the economy continued to expand. Job growth is slowing, with most job growth in the past month occurring in the sectors that have been the slowest to recover from the pandemic. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5%, which is what it has averaged in 2023. Labor force participation rose for the fourth month in a row, reaching a new post-pandemic high. Over the past two years, the labor force participation rate has risen by 1.1 percentage points, bringing nearly 3 million people into the workforce.

“This report overall shows that the economy is slowing, at the kind of steady pace that could be consistent with a soft landing in which inflation comes down without widespread job loss. Wage growth and job growth is slowing. Sectors that grew a lot post-pandemic are shrinking slightly, while those that have yet to fully recover are continuing to grow,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

1. The Black unemployment rate hit an historic low this month, but the bigger story is how over the past year declining Black unemployment has kept the overall unemployment rate low.

For most groups of people, the unemployment rate in March remained slightly elevated compared to February 2020. Male unemployment is slightly higher today, driven by higher unemployment rates for Hispanic and White men compared to February 2020. Among women, White women’s unemployment rate is higher today than in February 2020.

So how did the unemployment rate recently hit a 50-year low, when it isn’t even below February 2020 levels for most groups? That decline was driven by substantial declines in the Black unemployment rate. Black men’s unemployment rate is nearly a full percentage point lower than it was in February 2020, while Black women’s unemployment rate is 0.6 percentage points lower.

This decline in the Black unemployment rate has happened at a time when Black labor force participation has increased, soaring well above White labor force participation.

Our tight labor market reflects dramatic improvements for both Black men and women. However, their unemployment rate remains well above that of White men and women.

2. Urban areas have thriving labor force participation rates, while rural areas are struggling to recover.

Urban areas have long had higher labor force participation rates among prime-age workers (those ages 25 to 54) compared to rural areas. That gap has widened, however, as urban areas have experienced a more rapid return to work among their residents. While the prime-age labor force participation rate is continuing to grow in rural areas, it remains well below pre-pandemic levels. More worrisome is that the growth in labor force participation has slowed in recent months.

In contrast, there is no evidence of slowing growth in labor force participation in metropolitan areas. A gap has emerged in labor force participation between the 10 metropolitan areas with the largest populations and smaller metropolitan areas. Prior to the pandemic, labor force participation rates among both groups were similar. While both experienced similar declines in labor force participation, the larger metro regions have recovered more strongly, far exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The problem of low labor force participation in rural areas is even more pronounced when the total adult population is considered. Rural areas have more older people, and older people in rural areas have lower labor force participation rates than older people in urban areas. Overall, despite the shock of remote work, cities are recovering more strongly than rural areas, at least when measured by the share of residents with jobs or looking for work.

3. The working-age foreign-born population has almost recovered to its pre-pandemic trend.

The pandemic was a shock to the movement of people around the globe. In much of the world, including the United States, COVID-19 pandemic policy responses included rules restricting migration. In the United States, limits were imposed on green cards, asylum claims, and many other kinds of legal immigration. Illegal immigration enforcement was re-oriented to the border, where asylum seekers and other immigrants were turned away en-masse.

Beyond rules barring the movement of people, people were drawn home or discouraged by job prospects in the United States. The result was a large decline in the working-age foreign-born population both overall and relative to a decades-long pre-pandemic trend.

The decline in the working-age foreign-born population started prior to the pandemic, with a notable drop in 2019. COVID-19 and related measures helped extend this downward slide. By October 2020, there were 2.6 million fewer foreign-born workers compared to the previous (2010-2019) trend. Throughout the pandemic, excess job openings were especially prevalent in industries that rely heavily on migrant labor.

In the middle of 2021, a large gap in the number of foreign-born workers remained, but it began to rapidly close. By the end of 2021, the level had recovered among both male and female foreign-born workers to that seen prior to the pandemic. However, the number of foreign-born workers remained well below what would have been expected by the pre-pandemic trend. In 2022, growth in male foreign-born workers continued and by the end of the year had fully recovered to the trend line. However, the female foreign-born working-age population has largely stagnated and remains well below the pre-pandemic trend.

Continued growth in foreign-born workers is one of the key components to sustaining job growth while bringing down inflation. Policies that encourage immigration can help support ongoing job growth.

4. The labor force participation recovery has been strongest among those ages 35 to 44.

Labor force participation fell across the board with the pandemic, but it has recovered among prime-age people (those ages 25 to 54). In March, the labor force participation rate of prime-age people held steady at 83.1%over the previous month. This is slightly higher than in February 2020 and well above its 2019 average.

Prime- age workers have driven the labor force participation rate recovery, but that primarily reflects a surge in participation among women ages 35 to 54. And the growth was particularly driven by women. In March 2023, 77.5% of 35- to 44-year-old women were in the labor force compared to 76.4% in February 2020. In comparison male labor force participation in this age group has ticked up by only 0.1 percentage points. While labor force participation has fallen for men ages 45 to 54, it has risen among women in that age group.

Older workers are much less likely to work today than prior to the pandemic, and there is little evidence of recovery in the labor force participation rates of either older men or older women.

Among people under age 24, labor force participation rates are lower today for women, while they are higher for men. This is a more difficult trend to assess because historically, higher rates of attending school have been associated with lower rates of labor force participation. Therefore some of these differences may reflect educational decisions.

5. Of the jobs added this month, 50% came from two sectors with employment still well below pandemic levels: government and leisure and hospitality.

The public sector has been slow to recover from the pandemic. Employment remains at 98.6% of February 2020 levels, despite the addition of 47,000 jobs in March 2023. After stagnating between the summers of 2021 and 2022, public sector job growth picked up in the summer of 2022 and has steadily grown since. Over the past three months, the public sector has added 226,000 jobs, with growth occurring at all levels of government.

In the private sector, employment in leisure and hospitality added 72,000 jobs, continuing to chip away at the gap between current employment in the sector and employment prior to the pandemic.

While neither the public sector nor leisure and hospitality has fully recovered to pre-pandemic employment, they have driven recent growth as the labor market continues to adjust to the widespread fluctuations and reallocation across sectors that occurred in the wake of the pandemic.

More generally, the goods-producing sector lost 7,000 jobs this month and yet employment in the sector remains well above pre-pandemic levels. Private sector job growth this month was driven entirely by the services-producing sector. The level of jobs in the services-producing sector is currently well above pre-pandemic levels and even exceeds that of the goods-producing sector. However, job growth has been concentrated almost exclusively in the services-producing sector over the past 50 years. So while services-producing sector employment is above pre-pandemic levels, it remains well below the pre-pandemic trend. In the decade prior to the pandemic, much of the job growth in services-producing sector happened in two sectors: leisure and hospitality, and education and health services. These two sectors have been the slowest to recover, although they have driven job growth in recent months.

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.

National Academy of Sciences appoints Shaefer chair of new committee on economic and social mobility


As inequality and downward social mobility are on the rise in the United States, research on the causes and solutions is urgently required. To influence the direction of future research, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine selected H. Luke Shaefer, Ford School associate dean for academic affairs, Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, and Director of Poverty Solutions, to chair the committee on Research Agenda for Improving Economic and Social Mobility in the United States.

Sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the study will review and assess the state of knowledge on the factors that influence economic and social mobility, the mechanisms through which these factors operate, and how these relationships and mechanisms vary across and within different population groups. The committee will also identify knowledge gaps, discuss promising research approaches, and recommend policy-relevant research.

Shaefer will lead 13 other scholars—including Susan Dynarski, currently Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Education at Harvard University and formerly co-director of the Ford School’s Education Policy Initiative —to improve evidence-based policymaking and inform mobility-related policy and evaluation efforts at all levels.

Read more about the project on The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s website.

Many households will struggle with ending of federal pandemic aid: Faculty Q&A

Jared Wadley,

ANN ARBOR – The federal government has ended its pandemic aid for millions of low-income families on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

The average person will receive about $90 less in benefits per month, possibly hundreds of dollars depending on their circumstances, in a time when the price of food, gas and other necessities have emptied many wallets.

Afton Branche-Wilson, assistant director of community initiatives at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions, said this reduction in SNAP benefits means households will have to make hard decisions about which expenses to cut, which bills to pay on time and in full, and which bills to pay partially or pay late.

Afton Branche-Wilson

Afton Branche-Wilson

The timing of the ending of extra payments comes as a recent U.S. Census Bureau report indicates that 40 million people are having difficulty affording household expenses. How do you think families will adjust their spending to deal with this reduction in assistance?

Families will spend less on food, perhaps by purchasing lower-priced, lower-quality items or shrinking the size of their meals. Since the beginning of the pandemic-era benefits, some individuals have been able to stock up on items in their freezers and pantries to prepare for lean times—now is the time people will be using those reserves.

Following an increase in SNAP benefits, families tend to spend more on housing, transportation and education since SNAP benefits free up dollars for other expenses. Now, after this benefits cut, households who are already feeling the effects of inflation on their limited incomes will have to figure out how to spend even less on these important expenses.

What will be the domino effect from all of this?

First, food banks in the community will likely see an increase in families seeking assistance. Grocery stores will also see a drop in sales, which we saw in 2014 after temporary SNAP benefit increases related to the Great Recession expired. SNAP dollars support grocery stores in every community, so unfortunately these stores will experience the negative impacts of cuts to SNAP.

With less money coming from federal aid, will individuals seek employment or—if they already had a job—possibly find a second job?

Research from 2014 also suggests that some individuals, particularly those with dependents, will work additional hours or jobs in response to a cut in SNAP benefits. But it’s important to consider the tradeoffs: Working more might mean less time spent helping children with homework or less time dedicated to continuing education.

What can elected leaders do to help families—or is it even on their radars that people will suffer without that additional money?

We know that these benefits helped reduce poverty and food insecurity for households across the country, therefore, state policymakers should redouble efforts to invest in economic supports for individuals and families, through expansions to state Earned Income Tax Credits, childcare subsidies and other proven policies. At the federal level, restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit which offered monthly payments to caregivers with children would go a long way toward helping families plug the gap in their monthly budgets created by these cuts.

Is there anything families can do to mitigate the effects of this assistance ending?

Make sure the state knows if you have recently lost income or faced a spike in expenses, so they can ensure that you are receiving the full amount of your benefits. Households should also take advantage of other programs and credits designed to support them. Many parents who receive SNAP are automatically eligible for the Women, Infants and Children program, which provides access to nutritious foods. It’s also tax season, which means working families should file their taxes to receive Earned Income Tax Credit and other payments. These credits are worth thousands—for example, a working parent of two earning $35,000 could qualify for about $6,500 in benefits.


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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