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Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan

Joan and Sanford Weill hall
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735 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091


Washtenaw County set to launch updated Opportunity Index

Contact: Peter Lindeman,, 734-417-4021

WASHTENAW COUNTY – Later this month, the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) will be launching the 2020 Opportunity Index. The 2020 Opportunity Index builds off the original 2015 Index, using key data points across five categories – health, job access, economic well-being, education and training, and community engagement and stability – to measure how where you live in Washtenaw County impacts your access to opportunity. The updated Index was created by OCED in partnership with University of Michigan Poverty Solutions, along with a variety of community data partners.

“Structural factors like housing affordability, access to healthcare or early childhood education, and others have a huge impact on an individual’s ability to thrive,” said Teresa Gillotti, director of OCED. “The 2020 Opportunity Index is a tool for policymakers, service organizations, and the community at large to leverage data to foster increased equity in Washtenaw County.”

“Poverty Solutions is a proud partner of the 2020 Opportunity Index,” said Julia Weinert, managing director for University of Michigan Poverty Solutions. “This project has the ability to inform local leaders in their efforts to promote economic mobility by using data and research, which is a mainspring of our collaboration.”

On April 29th from 2-4pmWashtenaw County will host a special Zoom event, DATA DRIVING EQUITY, to officially launch the 2020 Opportunity Index. County leaders and U of M Poverty Solutions will present key findings of the index, demonstrate how to navigate the tool, and explore how to use the data to inform decisions about programming and policy. Register for the event here:

“As elected officials, the actions we take should be informed by data to maximize the positive impact we are having in the community,” said Justin Hodge, Washtenaw County commissioner for District 5. “The Board of Commissioners is fully committed to using this important tool to tackle structural inequity in our county so that everyone has the opportunity to meet their full potential.”

At their April 7th meeting, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to integrate the 2020 Opportunity Index into county operations. The resolution mandates the Board utilizes the index as part of their review process for new policies. It also instructs Washtenaw County Government offices and departments to use the index when developing and refining programs, as well as when creating strategic action plans. Moving forward, the Opportunity Index will be updated every other year to ensure decisions are being made with the most up to date understanding of structural disparities in Washtenaw County.

 The 2020 Opportunity Index will officially be live at starting on Monday, 4/26.


Washtenaw County OCED is a government agency committed to stepping out of traditional government roles to drive long-term system changes that increase equity and opportunity for all residents. You can learn more by visiting or by following @washtenawOCED on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is comprised of nine elected officials representing different Washtenaw County communities. The current Board will serve from January 2021 through December 2022.

Click here to find the list of Commissioners by district.  You can stay up to date on the latest from the Board of Commissioners by visiting, or by following them on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Release courtesy of Washtenaw County OCED

More Detroiters ‘very likely’ to get COVID-19 vaccine than 4 months ago, U-M survey finds

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

DETROIT — Thirty-eight percent of Detroiters now say they are “very likely” to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, up from 14% who gave that response in the fall of 2020, according to a new survey from the University of Michigan.

At the same time, the proportion of those very unlikely to vaccinate fell from 38% to 25%. Overall, Detroiters are split 50-50 on being likely versus unlikely to get the vaccine.

The representative survey of Detroit residents, conducted by U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), also offers valuable insights on what factors drive Detroiters’ decisions related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

For Detroit residents, the most important factors in determining whether to get vaccinated are their desire to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe. The least important factors are whether other people they know are getting vaccinated and where the vaccine was made.

The greatest discrepancy between those willing and unwilling to vaccinate is related to how they view science on the effectiveness of the vaccine and the advice of doctors. While 94% of people likely to vaccinate say scientific findings on vaccine effectiveness are important to their decision, just 62% of those unlikely to vaccinate say it is important. Those likely to vaccinate are significantly more likely to think their doctors’ advice is important in deciding to vaccinate (80%) compared to those unlikely to vaccinate (54%).

“DMACS allows us to track how Detroiters’ attitudes about the COVID-19 vaccine have changed over time. Knowing what factors drive their decision making on whether to get the vaccine can inform public health efforts,” 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.

DMACS has been surveying representative samples of Detroiters since 2016. This latest wave of the survey was open from Jan. 6 to March 5 and captures the views of 2,238 residents. To represent the views of the city as a whole, survey responses are weighted to match Detroits’ population demographics.

This wave of the survey was conducted in collaboration with, and supported by, Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID (C3), a transdisciplinary partnership of researchers and community leaders that aims to include marginalized communities in COVID-19 research and prevention in order to reduce health inequities across Michigan.

“The community-based participatory research approach of this project has allowed for community input at all stages of survey development, which strengthened the survey and increased the response rate in our community,” said Angela Reyes, executive director of Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation and Michigan CEAL steering committee member.

Disparities persist in who is likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the survey results:

  • Residents of color were significantly less likely to say they plan to get the vaccine than white residents;
  • On average, men are more likely to say they will get the vaccine than women;
  • Likelihood of vaccination increases significantly with education and income; and
  • Residents who say they have no trust in the U.S. government as a source for COVID-19 information are half as likely to plan to get the vaccine compared to those with some trust or high trust in the government.

“The DMACS team and the results of this survey have made important contributions to the mission of the Michigan C3 partnership to understand inequities among Black and Latinx residents in Detroit in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for and inspired by the findings from this study, which will help inform our work moving forward to address these inequities,” said Barbara Israel, professor of public health and one of the multiple principal investigators for the Michigan CEAL Partnership, along with Erica Marsh, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

DMACS surveys also reveal the impact of the pandemic on Detroit’s neighborhoods. Compared to findings from late 2019, residents now report lower neighborhood satisfaction, increased business closures, and stalled progress on priorities like public safety and beautification.

In late 2019, 20% of residents reported they were very satisfied with their neighborhood, compared to 14% of residents in early 2021. Over that same period, the proportion of residents who noticed more businesses closing than opening in their neighborhoods rose from 15% to 23%.

Roughly a year ago, 30% of residents reported that their neighborhoods were getting safer, but in 2021, only 15% said their neighborhoods are getting safer. Similarly, 39% of residents a year ago reported their neighborhood had grown more attractive, compared to 24% of residents today.

“While we have clear evidence of the toll the pandemic has had on health and economic well-being, the full toll of the pandemic on communities will continue to emerge over time,” said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M who analyzed the DMACS COVID-19 survey data.

Other notable findings from the latest DMACS survey include:

  • Eighty-five percent of residents said in the past week they wore a mask all of the time when in public, 80% said they always wash their hands multiple times a day, and 71% said they are always maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from non-household members.
  • In March, Detroit’s unemployment rate is approximately 26%, which is roughly equivalent to the unemployment rate estimated in October 2020 and more than twice the unemployment rate estimated a year ago, prior to the pandemic.
  • The proportion of residents who say the pandemic is creating major challenges accessing healthcare, having a place to live, and getting medication fell significantly between fall 2020 and spring 2021.

See the complete survey results.

More about Michigan CEAL

Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID (C3) is a transdisciplinary partnership of researchers and community leaders. Together using a community-based participatory research approach, C3 aims to identify and implement effective, community-driven strategies that enhance access and inclusion of marginalized communities in COVID-19 research and prevention to reduce health inequities across the state of Michigan. C3 focuses on alleviating the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 among low-income communities and communities of color in Wayne, Genesee, Kent, and Washtenaw counties. This project is supported by and reflects the goals of the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities initiative, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to conduct timely community-engaged COVID-19 research and outreach to reduce health inequities.

What the American Rescue Plan means for children experiencing homelessness


Jennifer Erb-Downward

Jennifer Erb-Downward

The American Rescue Plan Act, the latest $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus plan, includes $800 million to support children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Jennifer Erb-Downward, a senior research associate at the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative who studies family homelessness, has been tracking the effect of the pandemic on people without stable housing. She discusses the potential impact of this aid.

What do we know about how the American Rescue Plan Act’s $800 million for youth and children experiencing homelessness will be spent?

The exact uses of this funding will vary some by state. Right now, we know this money will be used to support identification, enrollment, school participation, and wraparound services for children and youth experiencing homelessness. The money will be distributed through the McKinney-Vento Act, which funnels federal funding to states and then local school districts to support the education of children who are homeless. This is critical now because during the pandemic the identification of homeless students has decreased. When children who are homeless are not identified they do not receive the support they need to attend and succeed in school.

How does this compare to previous relief packages and typical funding for youth homelessness programs?

The funding in the COVID-19 relief package is a dramatic increase from what was available previously. Based on SchoolHouse Connections’ analysis of budget allocations, $800 million is more than Congress has appropriated for the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness over the last 10 years, combined.

This funding provides a real opportunity not only to identify children who are homeless and support them in school but to connect families with resources that could fundamentally end their homelessness. This is a transformational opportunity. In addition to McKinney-Vento funding, the latest COVID-19 relief package provides middle- to very low-income families with a child allowance of $250 – $300 per month per child. This round of stimulus checks treats children as equals with adults, which means a family of three will get a check for $4,200 — plus the child allowance payments — even if they had no earnings. The child allowance alone is estimated to decrease child poverty in the United States by 45%. If we can leverage the $800 million in McKinney-Vento funding to reach homeless families and children with these resources now, we can fundamentally change the future of hundreds of thousands of children’s lives.

You partnered with School House Connection, a national nonprofit working to overcome homelessness through education, to track how schools are responding to children experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. Can you share more about that project?

In the fall of 2020, SchoolHouse Connection conducted a national survey of homeless liaisons in schools on how identification of homeless students during the pandemic compared to the prior year and how the first round of COVID-19 funding was being used to support homeless students. Poverty Solutions worked with SchoolHouse Connection to analyze the survey data in order to find out what trends existed nationally and what we could learn about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on homeless students.

What were some of the key findings from that survey of school district homeless liaisons

The biggest takeaway from the report was that in the midst of the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, liaisons were identifying fewer children who were homeless. Extrapolating out survey responses we found an estimated 420,000 fewer children and youth experiencing homelessness have been identified and enrolled by schools so far this school year. This means vulnerable children are not receiving the support they need to participate in school or the other basic resources that schools provide — from food to a safe place to be during the day. Lower identification was of particular concern to liaisons surveyed because many perceived that the needs in their community were actually greater as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that homelessness had likely increased during the same time the number of homeless students identified by schools was going down.

The report also looked at the needs that liaisons were seeing among homeless students that they identified and how Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding was being used. The top concerns reported were lack of internet, shelter/housing, food, and child care. Unfortunately, liaisons indicated that federal education relief funds were not reaching homeless families, children, and youth. Only 18% of respondents indicated federal coronavirus relief education funding provided by the CARES Act was being used to meet the needs of students experiencing homelessness. This last finding, combined with the pandemic’s impact on homeless student identification, is what makes the $800 million of dedicated funding for homeless students so critical at this time. Without additional dedicated funding, we were not able to support students experiencing homelessness. Now we have an opportunity to turn that around.

What should educators and policymakers consider as they make use of this new $800 million in support for children and youth who are homeless?

For years we have not had the resources needed to identify and support all of the children in our schools experiencing homelessness. This funding provides us with a rare opportunity to not only increase the number of homeless children who can be reached but to potentially connect those children and their families to additional economic resources that could end their homelessness. McKinney-Vento dollars can help this to happen for the country’s most vulnerable families, but if we are going to be successful, we have to ensure the U.S. Department of Education guidance on how McKinney-Vento dollars can be used allows these connections to be made. This could be simple things like enabling liaisons to purchase prepaid debit cards, if that enables homeless families without bank accounts to access stimulus checks; or enabling districts to pay for hotel vouchers, if that might connect a family to longer-term housing resources. No one yet knows all of the details for how these programs will be rolled out. The most important thing is therefore to have the new McKinney-Vento dollars enable liaisons to be responsive to the needs of homeless families and children that they are identifying in their communities.


Lost in the Masked Shuffle and Virtual Void: Children and youth experiencing homelessnes amidst the pandemic, report by SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at U-M

Q&A: Coronavirus pandemic requires action to protect people who are homeless