Skip to main content
U-M Poverty Solutions Logo U-M Poverty Solutions Logo


Majority of Detroiters report stable, improved financial situation compared to year ago

Contact: Lauren Slagter,, 734-929-8027
Morgan Sherburne, 

DETROIT – Two years into the pandemic, 72% of Detroit residents say their financial situation has stabilized or improved compared to a year ago, and there’s evidence that stimulus checks and the expanded Child Tax Credit played a role in reducing Detroiters’ experiences of economic hardship. 

However, people with household incomes of less than $30,000 were more likely to say they’re in a worse financial situation than a year ago (35%), compared to people with incomes between $30,000 and $60,000 (18%), and people making more than $60,000 (9%), according to the most recent survey from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS). 

“The survey data show people with lower incomes, people who are unemployed, renters, and parents were more likely to report being in a worse financial situation at the end of 2021 than a year earlier. The economic impact of COVID-19 may have reinforced advantages and disadvantages in Detroit,” said Lydia Wileden, DMACS research associate who co-authored a new report, “The Economic Well-being of Detroit Residents Two Years into the COVID-19 Pandemic.” 

The findings come from a survey of a representative sample of 1,900 Detroiters fielded in November and December 2021. 

Detroiters who received the economic stimulus payments were less likely to report that they faced major economic challenges within the last year. At the end of 2021, 13% of stimulus check recipients said they were facing major economic challenges, compared to 30% of people who did not receive the checks. 

Similarly, parents who received the Child Tax Credit, which distributed monthly payments of $250-$300 per child from July to December 2021, were significantly more likely to report improved financial circumstances compared to other eligible parents, with 23% of CTC recipients saying they are in a better financial position now than a year ago compared to 12% of parents who were eligible but did not receive the tax credit.

“There is evidence that the expansion of the COVID-19 safety net helped ease residents’ economic challenges. Continuing this approach of providing cash assistance could help families maintain the financial stability they achieved in the second year of the pandemic,” said Elisabeth Gerber, one of the faculty leads for DMACS and professor of public policy at U-M.

The survey also found housing cost burden is a significant factor in Detroiters’ financial well-being. Housing costs are considered affordable if they account for no more than 30% of a household’s income. However, based on the survey responses, an estimated 39,000 Detroit households – 33,000 renter households and 6,000 homeowner households – are spending more than half of their income on housing, which is considered a severe housing cost burden. 

One-third of Detroit residents said they had missed at least one housing payment in the past year, which increases their risk of eviction or foreclosure. Five percent of Detroiters said they had been evicted in the past year, meaning an estimated 13,000 households may have been displaced from their homes in 2021; half of the reported evictions occured in the last four months of 2021 after the federal eviction moratorium lapsed.

Additionally, 17% of Detroiters reported experiencing one or more utility or service shut-offs in the last year, with the most common form being the disconnection of phone or internet service. 


Most Detroiters vaccinated in second half of 2021 were previously unsure about COVID-19 vaccines

Contact: Lauren Slagter,,
Morgan Sherburne,

DETROIT—Nearly one-third of a random sample of Detroit adults who had not received any COVID-19 vaccinations in June 2021 obtained their first dose in the second half of last year, according to a new University of Michigan survey.

Most of these adults who waited to vaccinate (80%) had previously reported they were unsure about getting vaccinated or unlikely to vaccinate, indicating that outreach efforts have achieved some success in Detroit.

The most recent findings from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study explore the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines over time among 1,630 Detroit residents who shared their vaccination status in both the June and December 2021 DMACS surveys, including those who have changed their mind about vaccination over time and those who remain unvaccinated.

“While many of the more persuadable respondents may have already been vaccinated, it is important to note that quite a few respondents who initially indicated they were very unlikely to vaccinate did eventually obtain a COVID-19 vaccination,” said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M and research associate at DMACS. “This suggests there is room for persuasion even among those with little inclination to vaccinate.”

A majority of respondents (64%) were “early adopters” of the vaccine and received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by June 2021. Despite waning vaccination rates in the latter half of last year, more than 10% of Detroit respondents (“wait-and-seers”) obtained their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between June and December 2021. About a quarter of respondents in Detroit were “holdouts” and were still unvaccinated at the end of last year.

Parents were especially likely to delay the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. Seventeen percent of parents, compared to only 8% of nonparents, opted to wait until the latter half of 2021 to vaccinate. This difference between parents and nonparents was on top of a 30-percentage-point difference between the number of parents and nonparents who were early adopters of the COVID-19 vaccine (see The Link Between Parents’ and Children’s Vaccination in Detroit).

White Detroiters were also significantly more likely to be early adopters of the vaccine (82%), compared to Black residents (62%), Latino residents (63%) and residents who identified as multiracial or as members of other ethnoracial groups (50%).

Importantly, however, Detroit residents of color were nearly three times as likely as white Detroiters to have waited until the latter half of 2021 to vaccinate. Eleven percent of Black respondents and 13% of Latino or other-raced respondents received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine between June and December 2021, compared to 4% of white respondents. This suggests vaccination efforts have overcome some early wariness among communities of color, narrowing the vaccination race gap.

“Due to the long storied history that Black people have with institutional racism via health care and government, waiting and observing before acting on a new vaccine is necessary because the trust just isn’t there,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit and president of National Action Network Michigan.

“Although the world and economy are in a hurry to return to pre-pandemic life, the real challenge is exhibiting through public policy the political will to keep mask stigma down, hybrid employment and education options open, and vaccines accessible” Williams added. “This patience will be key in continuing to protect people against COVID-19.”

Other key findings include:

  • Compared to wait-and-seers who got vaccinated between June and December 2021, vaccine holdouts were significantly more likely to be concerned about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
  • Respondents who remain unvaccinated were nearly twice as likely (42%) to oppose all vaccines compared to respondents who delayed the timing of their vaccine (23%).
    There is some evidence that those who delayed vaccination but ultimately got vaccinated were more likely to report access issues in June 2021. Marginally more wait-and-seers reported that lack of time, transportation or ability to schedule an appointment contributed to their delayed receipt of the vaccine.

This wave of the survey was conducted in collaboration with, and supported by, Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID, a community-based participatory research partnership working to enhance knowledge and understanding and reduce COVID-19 inequities among communities most impacted by the pandemic. The research is supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (1 OT2 HL 156812).

Sign up for future reports at DMACS.

Event series to explore racialized health, economic disparities from COVID-19

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is kicking off a virtual event series this week with a discussion about the local impact of safety nets on communities of color during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Panelists at the April 1 event include:

  • William Lopez, a clinical assistant professor at the School of Public Health as well as a faculty associate at both the Latina/o Studies Program and Poverty Solutions;
  • Kat Stafford, a national investigative writer with The Associated Press, where she examines how structural racism has fueled inequity in the United States; and
  • Charles E. Williams II, pastor of the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit and the Michigan Chair of the National Action Network. Williams also is engaged in research at U-M’s Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion and Poverty Solutions.

The panel will be moderated by Mara Ostfeld, associate faculty director of Poverty Solutions and an assistant research scientist at the Ford School. Ostfeld is a faculty lead at the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study.

The series aims to explore the local- and state-level policies responding to the racialized health and economic disparities stemming from the pandemic. Organized by the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice and co-sponsored by Poverty Solutions and the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the series will bring together policymakers, journalists, researchers and community leaders.

Future events have been scheduled for May 6 and June 10.

Scheduled to participate on May 6 is Cameron Webb, assistant professor of medicine and public health science at University of Virginia and senior policy adviser for COVID-19 equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team. He will be in conversation with Luke Shaefer, Poverty Solutions’ faculty director.

For June 10, Joneigh Khaldun, former chief medical executive for the state of Michigan and current vice president and chief equity officer for CVS Health, is scheduled to be in conversation with Celeste Watkins-Hayes, director of the Center for Racial Justice.


US households in better financial shape at end of 2021 than pre-pandemic

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

U.S. households were in a better financial position, on average, at the end of last year than in 2019, despite widespread joblessness and economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new University of Michigan report.

Researchers at U-M Poverty Solutions attribute this financial stability to the unprecedented, cash-based safety net response by the federal government during the pandemic, which included expanded unemployment insurance, a series of economic impact payments (also known as stimulus checks), and monthly payments to families with children through the expanded Child Tax Credit.

The analysis revealed that the percentage of Americans with poor credit scores fell in 2021 to the lowest rate in at least 16 years, and available measures of liquid assets indicate low-income households had more cash on hand at the end of 2021 than in 2019, even after accounting for inflation.

However, early data from 2022 suggest the expiration of COVID-19 safety net policies may negatively impact the financial well-being of families in the year ahead.

“Inflation remains a great concern, but it should be placed in the broader context of the historic success of the COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery. There’s evidence that the end of monthly Child Tax Credit payments is taking a heavier toll on families’ financial well-being than inflation,” said Patrick Cooney, assistant director of policy impact at Poverty Solutions.

Cooney co-authored a new policy brief with Poverty Solutions Faculty Director H. Luke Shaefer and Samiul Jubaed, a data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The report builds on Poverty Solutions’ ongoing analysis of material hardship levels during the pandemic, which refers to households’ ability to afford basic necessities.

Researchers tracked two types of material hardship, based on responses to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Food insufficiency is measured by how many households reported “often” or “sometimes” not having enough food to eat in the past seven days, and financial instability is measured by how many said it was “very difficult” to pay for usual household expenses in the past seven days.

During the pandemic, reported hardship levels reached a low point in April 2021, following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021. Material hardship rose slightly through June 2021 before falling again, gradually for adults without children and steeply for adults with children. Hardship rates then rose slowly after August 2021, timed with the expiration of expanded unemployment assistance, though the rise has been less severe among adults with children.

Historically, adults with children have experienced higher levels of material hardship than adults without children. But from July 2021 to January 2022, that gap narrowed—coinciding with monthly Child Tax Credit payments. In February 2022, after the Child Tax Credit payments ended, households with children experienced a steeper increase in levels of food insufficiency and financial instability compared to adults without children.

“In just six months in 2021, the expanded Child Tax Credit delivered on its promise to reduce hardship and income poverty in households with children. By implementing primarily cash-based and more universal safety net measures, we mounted the most successful response to an economic crisis in our nation’s history,” said Shaefer, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, who is among a group of poverty scholars who have long studied the potential of an expanded Child Tax Credit to reduce child poverty.

Other measures of financial health—including credit scores and bank account balances—indicate U.S. households were in a strong position overall at the end of 2021. Since 2013, the average credit score of American adults has steadily improved, rising between one and four points per year before rising by seven points in 2020 and further increasing in 2021. During the Great Recession of the late 2000s, the average credit score declined. In 2021, 15.5% of American adults had poor credit, compared to more than one-quarter in April 2010, following the Great Recession.

Researchers also found that bank account balances for households with low incomes were up more than 50% at the end of 2021 relative to pre-pandemic levels, when adjusted for inflation. From July to December 2021, households receiving Child Tax Credit payments saw steady gains in their bank account balances, which stands in contrast to greater volatility in account balances at other points in the pandemic.

“The data indicate the consistency of the Child Tax Credit payments provided households with children a certain amount of stability,” Jubaed said.


Poverty Solutions marks five years of research, policy impact

By Lauren Slagter
Poverty Solutions

Since its launch in 2016, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan has built an action-based research program that has informed efforts to prevent and alleviate poverty in Michigan and across the country.


As the university-wide initiative celebrates five years of public policy impact, Poverty Solutions faculty and staff reflected on the partnerships with policymakers, service providers, nonprofits and community groups at the local, state and national levels.

“We know scholars don’t have all the answers, and yet we have an important role to play. We can bring data, evidence and analysis to identify critical issues and evidence-based solutions,” said H. Luke Shaefer, founding 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.

“What we care most about is whether our work fosters change that empowers families. Our record on this is what I am most proud of.”

Poverty Solutions has leveraged the expertise of hundreds of faculty affiliates across the university, utilized staff-led research, and involved hundreds of students in its work to better understand and address the systemic causes of poverty.

Its five-year impact report, released this week, summarizes efforts to:

The report also gives an overview of:

  • Cross-campus projects, including faculty grants and the annual Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions Speakers Series.
  • Washtenaw County initiatives, such as the SummerWorks youth employment program and the Opportunity Index.
  • Detroit partnerships, like the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility and the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study.
  • State-level collaborations, including advising the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and addressing child poverty in Emmet County.
  • National engagement, such as having four Poverty Solutions scholars testify at U.S. Congressional hearings.

“There is still much to be done to prevent and alleviate poverty. Poverty Solutions remains committed to analyzing how policies and systems affect poverty rates in the U.S. and addressing the connections between poverty and structural racism,” said Kristin Seefeldt, associate faculty director of Poverty Solutions and associate professor of social work and public policy.

“Structural racism and its effects are deeply embedded in both the causes and consequences of poverty, and we need to pay particular attention to this when designing and promoting solutions.”

Poverty Solutions will continue to foster an interdisciplinary approach to poverty alleviation, train the next generation of leaders working to eliminate poverty, and deepen partnerships with community organizations and policymakers to ensure the initiative’s research is responsive to real-world needs and has practical application.

“The pandemic put a spotlight on the underlying disparities in our society that contribute to poverty,” said Mara Ostfeld, associate faculty director at Poverty Solutions and assistant research scientist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “Our communities have faced profound challenges over the past few years, and we hope to expand our partnerships to address these challenges together.”


Detroit parents less likely to vaccinate themselves than non-parents, leads to low youth vaccination rates

Contact: Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027,

DETROIT— Just under half (49%) of Detroit parents and guardians of children under 18 reported at the end of 2021 that they had been vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 75% of adults who do not live with children. 

These relatively low vaccination rates among parents in Detroit are particularly consequential due to their strong relationship with low vaccination rates among children. Unvaccinated parents (3%) are 22 times less likely than vaccinated parents (68%) to report that their children aged 12 through 17 have been vaccinated.

That’s according to a new report from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), supported by University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative. The survey was administered to 1,900 Detroit households between Nov. 3 to Dec. 15, 2021. DMACS has been surveying representative samples of Detroit households since 2016, and survey responses are weighted to match Detroit’s population demographics and represent the views of the city as a whole.

While children between 5 and 11 years of age had only recently become eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the time of the survey, parents’ vaccination status is also associated with their likelihood of obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine for their young children. Fully 67% of parents who have not been vaccinated said they were uncomfortable with the idea of getting their 5-11 year olds vaccinated compared to only 30% of parents who have been vaccinated.

Notably, there was no evidence of ethnoracial differences in vaccination rates among parents, despite evidence that White Detroiters are generally more likely to be vaccinated than residents of color. Roughly half of all parents, regardless of racial or ethnic identity, report being vaccinated.

“Recognizing the link between parents and kids’ vaccination status offers important insight as Michigan ramps up vaccination efforts targeted at children. Overcoming families’ vaccine hesitancy is absolutely critical as schools, sports, and youth programs work to provide safe spaces for children to learn and grow. Our findings clarify in part which youth are not getting COVID-19 vaccines, and why,” said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M and research associate at DMACS.

Among unvaccinated parents, concerns around safety and effectiveness were the most commonly cited reasons for not vaccinating. Eighty-six percent of parents cited concerns over the safety and potential side effects of the vaccine as contributing to their decision to not be vaccinated. Additionally, three-quarters (76%) of parents cited doubt about the effectiveness of the vaccine as contributing to their decision to not be vaccinated.

“The share of parents who are uncertain about having their children vaccinated for COVID-19 indicates an opportunity for more outreach and education to address families’ unanswered questions about the vaccine. The latest DMACS survey offers new insights on those parents’ attitudes,” said Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS, professor of public policy and sociology, and research professor at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.

Lower vaccination rates among parents do not appear to be due to doubts about the seriousness of the COVID-19. Similar to the results reported in August 2021, parents  continue to report feeling significantly less safe engaging in many social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic than other adults. For example, just two-thirds (66%) of parents feel safe going grocery shopping and 59% feel safe going to the doctor, compared to 82% and 80% of other adults, respectively.

Importantly, vaccination rates among adults in Detroit are still changing. Nearly 3 in 10 adults (28%) who had not been vaccinated in June 2021 have since been vaccinated. In the next DMACS report, we will explore how vaccination rates among adults in Detroit have changed over time.

This wave of the survey was conducted in collaboration with, and supported by, Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID (MICEAL), a community-based participatory research partnership working to enhance knowledge and understanding and reduce COVID-19 inequities among communities most impacted by the pandemic. This research is supported by the National Institutes of Health  (1 OT2 HL 156812). For more on Michigan CEAL, please visit


Homeless, unaccompanied youth face significant health risks, lack access to shelter

Contact: Mara Ostfeld, 734-764-3490,
Jared Wadley, 734-834-7719,

ANN ARBOR—High school-aged youth experiencing homelessness report higher rates of attempting suicide, being forced to have sex, misusing prescription pain medication, and pregnancy than their housed peers. Transgender youth are especially at risk of experiencing homelessness and being estranged from a parent or guardian.

That’s according to new analysis from University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative, which aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research. The analysis estimates the total number and ages of high school youth who face homelessness in Michigan, their health risks, and their use of support services in the last 12 months, using data from the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan’s 2018 Annual Report on Ending Homelessness, and the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS); this is the most recent data available. 

“We found that the likely number of homeless unaccompanied minors in Michigan is much higher than shelter or school data suggest. Data also show that homeless youth face much higher risks to their health and well-being and are accessing primary health care at much lower rates than their housed peers,” said Jennifer Erb-Downward, senior research associate at Poverty Solutions who specializes in child and family homelessness. Erb-Downward co-authored a policy brief summarizing the data analysis, titled “A Way Home: Why Supporting Youth Experiencing Homelessness is Critical in Michigan.”

In 2019, 5.6% of Michigan high school youth reported being homeless in the last 30 days. This is the equivalent of an estimated 22,444 teens without a stable place to live across the state. This issue is especially pronounced among youth who identify as transgender. More than 1 in 4 (26%) transgender youth reported being homeless or at risk for homelessness compared to just over 1 in 10 (11%) of their peers who do not identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). Of particular note, 9% of transgender high school youth reported experiencing homelessness unaccompanied by a parent or guardian — a rate more than four times that of youth who did not identify as LGBTQ (2%)

In all, over one-third (37.8%) of youth who were homeless in the last 30 days reported that they had run away from home, been kicked out, or abandoned in the last 30 days – meaning they were unaccompanied by an adult and without a stable place to live. At least 6,400 of these youths were minors ages 17 or younger.

Poverty Solutions’ analysis also found the vast majority of homeless, unaccompanied minors in the state are not accessing shelter supports. In 2018, Michigan youth shelters reported serving 711 homeless, unaccompanied minors — the equivalent of just 11% of unaccompanied minors estimated to be experiencing homelessness in Michigan in 2019. 

Homeless youth were five times more likely to have attempted suicide, four times more likely to currently misuse prescription pain medicine, three times more likely to have been forced to have sex, and 11 times more likely to have been or gotten someone pregnant than their housed peers. Only one-third (37.2%) of homeless youth reported seeing a doctor or nurse in the last 12 months compared to three-quarters (75.7%) of housed youth. 

“Unfortunately, these data show that far too many minors are experiencing homelessness while not receiving the support that they need. However, changes to state policy and homeless services can make it easier for youth to access shelter and health care,” said Amanda Nothaft, senior data and evaluation manager at Poverty Solutions who co-authored the policy brief. 

The brief outlines policy recommendations to expand and strengthen shelter and transitional living services for youth experiencing homelessness, make it possible for unaccompanied minors to consent to shelter services and basic medical care, provide support to families facing housing instability to prevent them from becoming homeless, and strengthen support for youth transitioning out of foster care and juvenile justice. 


U-M employers, mentors needed to support SummerWorks

By Julia Weinert
Poverty Solutions

Now in its seventh year of programming, SummerWorks seeks University of Michigan employers to provide internships and mentorship to local young adults ages 16-24.


SummerWorks is Washtenaw County’s Summer Youth Employment Program, run by Washtenaw County’s Office of Community and Economic Development, Michigan Works! Southeast, Michigan Rehabilitation Services and U-M. Its mission is to strengthen the community by leveraging local resources to provide opportunity and mentorship to young adults.

While the program went virtual in 2020, this year SummerWorks will bring back in-person programming and keep hybrid and remote options available for employers based on their organizational need.

Last year, the program hosted 50 internships and 70 mentorship placements. The program hopes to engage 100 internship positions and 100 mentors this year, and staff members are excited to share the university’s resources with the community.

“Our goal is to build on learnings during the pandemic and expand engagement for all participants through a variety of modes, including remote, hybrid and in-person. We hope to continue teaching new skills for evolving work environments,” said Zoë Erb, SummerWorks program manager.

Related: SummerWorks Mentoring Guide

Young adults in the program will engage in professional development sessions via a hybrid approach, a combination of webinars and in-person sessions with staff. These sessions begin in April so interns are ready to interview with potential employers in May and begin work in June.

SummerWorks internships provide emerging professionals the opportunity to learn more about a career field, the workplace and how they want to apply themselves.

“As an introverted person, working at the library and connecting with other people has pushed me to ‘come out of my shell’ a little bit,” said Alayna Good, an intern at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. “The program helps you improve and grow as a person.”

Her supervisor Monica Porter, assistant librarian, has been involved since the summer youth employment program’s inception in 2016. Porter hires multiple interns each year and called the program a “win-win” situation.

Providing internships opens doors and connections that may not be possible otherwise for young adults like Karis Hawkins, a 2021 SummerWorks participant who interned at the Michigan Medicine Department of Biological Chemistry.

“I was really grateful to have the opportunity to work at that internship and get matched at that internship through SummerWorks, because otherwise, I’m not sure if I would’ve had the opportunity to work in the lab that I’m in right now,” Hawkins said. “It’s been a really awesome opportunity — a learning experience, definitely.”

For youth, mentors and employers, SummerWorks builds confidence, fosters leadership skills, expands inclusive work practices and creates talent pipelines within a range of industries.

“Ultimately, SummerWorks is not just a jobs program,” Erb said. “It is a way to come together as individuals, organizations and a community invested in each other. It is a space to challenge the status quo, address inequities and strengthen our economy. And importantly, it is an opportunity to break old cycles, incorporate fresh ideas and expand educational and socioeconomic attainment for generations to come.”

The program continues to monitor CDC and local health guidelines, and staff members plan to work closely with all program stakeholders to prioritize everyone’s safety and health. To learn more about why you should become a SummerWorks employer, visit and contact us to get started.

Application Deadlines

Mentor Deadline: March 20

Priority Employer Deadline*: March 20

Employer Deadline: April 10

*Note: Employers submitting their complete application (including their internship description) by the priority deadline will be eligible for a $200 internship subsidy.

Originally published by the University Record

Detroit unemployment rate sits at 20%, nearly 1 in 4 parents out of the labor force report they left in last year

Contact: Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027,

DETROIT —  Detroit’s unemployment rate — the proportion of adults who are in the labor force but not currently employed — remains at 20%, virtually unchanged over the course of 2021, according to a new University of Michigan survey. This is less than half the unemployment rate observed when unemployment peaked at 43% in June 2020, but twice the pre-pandemic unemployment rate of about 10%.

The most recent survey from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) highlights significant disparities in who is most affected by unemployment in Detroit. Among those in the labor force, people of color, low-wage earners, and residents without four-year college degrees are more likely to be unemployed than other residents. Lower-income Detroit residents stood out, with more than 4 out of 10 Detroiters who are in the labor force and have annual household incomes of less than $30,000 indicating they were not currently working.

Additionally, Black (23%) and Latino (23%) Detroiters in the labor force are nearly four times as likely to be unemployed as White (6%) Detroiters in the labor force. These ethnoracial disparities in unemployment rates have widened over time. The unemployment rate among White residents fell from 14% to 6% between July and November of 2021, whereas the unemployment rate among Blacks and Latinos remained stable at roughly 23%. This suggests White Detroit residents are experiencing faster employment recovery than residents of color. 

The wave of employees who voluntarily resigned from their jobs during the pandemic, often referred to as the “Great Resignation,” was also evident among Detroiters. Approximately 38,600 Detroiters in the labor force said they had quit, resigned, or voluntarily left a job in the last year. When asked why they left their job, the most common reason was to take a better employment opportunity. Many Detroiters also cited the pandemic as a reason they had left work, ​​including unsafe working conditions, unvaccinated colleagues, and uncertain work schedules.

“The pandemic has caused large shifts in Detroit’s labor market, from the types of jobs people are pursuing to who is willing and able to work right now. The latest DMACS survey shows the uneven nature of the economic recovery, and Detroiters’ experiences suggest there is a need for both job training programs that prepare Detroiters for high-demand employment sectors as well as significant investment into the safety and quality of all employment opportunities,” said Elisabeth Gerber, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS, professor of public policy, and research associate in the Center for Political Studies at U-M’s Institute for Social Research.

One-quarter of Detroiters who are out of the labor force report they exited the workforce in the past three years. Of those, 11% say they exited the labor market in the last 12 months. Parents stood out among Detroiters who had recently exited the labor force. Nearly 1 out of every 4 parents who are not in the labor force (23%) reported that they left the labor force within the past year — three times the rate of other Detroiters who are out of the labor force. Interestingly, however, we did not find that women were more likely than men to have recently exited the labor force.

Other key findings include:

  • The majority (75%) of Detroiters who are unemployed but in the labor force think it is likely they will return to work in the next month. However, 11% think it is very unlikely they will return to work so quickly.
  • Half (50%) of Detroiters in the labor force — both employed and unemployed — report they have considered changing their occupation or field of work in the past year.
  • Roughly 1 in 6 Detroiters (18%) in the labor force report they have pursued job retraining or other education opportunities in the last 12 months.

DMACS has been surveying representative samples of Detroit households since 2016. This latest wave of the survey was open from November 3 to December 15, 2021, and captures the views of 1,900 residents. To represent the views of the city as a whole, survey responses are weighted to match Detroit’s population demographics.


Black Michiganders: Key findings from U-M Poverty Solutions

Contact: Lauren Slagter,
Jared Wadley, 

Black History Month, which is celebrated every year in February, highlights the experiences and honors the achievements of Black Americans throughout history. Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan highlights key data from its research that relates to Black Michiganders.



The percentage of Black Detroiters who were wearing masks early in the pandemic (March-April 2020). A representative survey from U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study demonstrates that Black Detroit residents adopted these safety measures earlier than other groups. While 59% of Black residents were wearing masks at that point in the pandemic, only 38% of White residents and 35% of Latino residents were doing so. This difference was no longer apparent by early May 2020, when widespread mask use was more common among all ethnoracial groups.

In June 2021, however, this ethnoracial gap in the use of protective measures reemerged. Black Detroiters (81%) were more than twice as likely as White Detroiters (38%) to report wearing masks all of the time when in public to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. Latino Detroiters (77%) reported wearing masks all of the time in public at a rate similar to their Black neighbors.



Percent of Detroit residents who voted yes on Proposal R in support of Detroit City Council creating a reparations taskforce “to make recommendations for housing and economic development programs that address historical discrimination against the Black community in Detroit” in Detroit’s November 2021 election.


The proposal stemmed from the work of Lauren Hood, the community fellow for a research project led by U-M’s Center for Social Solutions with support from Poverty Solutions and other university departments. This project, titled “Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-based Reparations Solutions,” will build on institutional and community-based partnerships to explore localized reparations solutions for African American and some Native American communities across the country. 

U-M is supporting three community fellows in facilitating conversations about reparations in Michigan communities: Hood in Detroit, Alize Asberry Payne in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, and Asa Zuccaro in Flint. 



The estimated number of Black American fugitives from slavery who found safe haven in Canada before 1865. By the mid-1830s, the Detroit River was the busiest transit point for freedom-seekers along the entire Canada-U.S. border. David Porter, Poverty Solutions faculty affiliate and professor of English and comparative literature at U-M, helped launch the Detroit River Story Lab to support narrative infrastructure projects along the Detroit River corridor. They use the term “narrative infrastructure” to refer to the fabric of shared stories that binds a community together. Investing in narrative infrastructure consequently entails elevating and celebrating community stories – especially those traditionally marginalized – and supporting projects that incorporate them into how people understand places and form attachments to them.

The Detroit River Story Lab focuses on three overlapping components of narrative infrastructure: place-based education, community heritage, and nonprofit journalism. In each of these areas, the researchers work alongside partner organizations to help gather, contextualize, and share out river-related stories in ways that align with community priorities and activate riverside locations as sites of connection, stewardship, and healing. 



The average number of land contracts or memorandums of contract filed each year with the Wayne County Register of Deeds between 2009-2017, according to Poverty Solutions faculty affiliate Joshua Akers, associate professor of geography and urban studies at UM-Dearborn, and colleague Eric Seymour at Rutgers University.

In the wake of the Great Recession, land contracts have reemerged in Detroit and across the country as a prominent alternative pathway to homeownership for households with limited access to capital and lending. A form of seller financing, a land contract is a legal agreement in which a buyer purchases a home through installment payments made directly to a seller; the buyer does not gain equity in the house until the contract is paid in full. Historically, land contracts have carried high interest rates, yielded high rates of eviction, and property owners have used them to exploit Black communities, in part because federal regulations and mortgage lenders excluded Black people from traditional lending opportunities throughout much of the 20th century.

However, some mission-driven organizations in Detroit and Southeast Michigan — including nonprofits, community development organizations, and other community development practitioners — have employed an alternative type of land contact. These organizations use land contracts as a community development tool that provides credit-constrained buyers a viable alternative pathway to homeownership, with fair sales prices, clear terms and conditions, and supports for buyers. In a 2021 brief on the use of land contracts in Detroit, Poverty Solutions Senior Strategic Projects Manager Karen Kling and Evelyn Zwiebach, state and local policy director for Enterprise Community Partners, draw from an extensive literature review and qualitative data collected through interviews and survey research to outline best practices, interventions, and key common-sense reforms that would make land contracts a safer and more effective homeownership tool.



The average auto insurance premium in 2019 for the 37 ZIP codes in Michigan in which more than 50% of residents are Black. This is over $2,000 more than the $3,100 average annual premium for all ZIP codes in Michigan.


Michigan’s new auto insurance law started to take effect in July 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, average estimated rates fell by 18% statewide, the steepest decline of anywhere in the country over that time period. Despite this dramatic fall, Michigan’s auto insurance rates remain among the highest in the nation. In Detroit, in particular, the average rate remains twice as high as the statewide average, according to analysis by Poverty Solutions summarized in a December 2021 policy brief titled “Building on Michigan’s auto insurance reform law.” While these data are preliminary and we may see rates drop more dramatically in the next year, it appears the new law does not go far enough to protect non-White and low-income people from being discriminated against in the insurance market.

To address persistent racial disparities in auto insurance rates, Poverty Solutions researchers Amanda Nothaft and Patrick Cooney recommend more regulation of the factors used to set rates by establishing mandatory driving-related factors that must carry a certain weight in the calculation. The 2019 reform prohibited the use of certain non-driving factors, but insurance companies can still use proxies for those factors like “territories” instead of ZIP code and insurance scores that include a credit score component that reinforce insurance redlining.