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U-M study finds 1 in 4 adults experience transportation insecurity

ANN ARBOR — Nearly one-quarter of adults age 25 and older in the United States experience transportation insecurity, meaning they are unable to move from place to place in a safe or timely manner.

The Transportation Security Index, a novel measure of transportation insecurity recently developed by University of Michigan researchers, offers new insights into the experience of this form of material hardship.

Their analysis found the experience of transportation insecurity as reported on a 2018 nationally representative survey is closely linked to income level. More than half of people living below the poverty line experience transportation insecurity, which is higher than the rate of food insecurity among people in poverty.

The latest research found transportation insecurity was more common among Black adults (33%) and Hispanic adults (29%) than White adults (19%). Residents of urban areas (39%) are more likely to experience transportation insecurity compared to suburban (22%) and rural (13%) residents, and transportation insecurity rates are higher among people who do not own a car (42%) than car owners (18%).

“Transportation security is an essential element of economic mobility, individual well-being, and understanding how to address poverty,” said Alexandra Murphy, U-M assistant professor of sociology. “If people don’t have the ability to move from place to place, they’re going to struggle to get to work, health care appointments, school, grocery stores and social services. They will also find it challenging to stay connected to important sources of social support, including friends and family.”

Murphy co-led the research team that developed the Transportation Security Index. Modeled after the Food Security Index, the Transportation Security Index includes a validated 16-question survey focused on the symptoms of transportation insecurity, like taking a long time to plan everyday trips, rescheduling appointments or worrying about inconveniencing acquaintances for help with transportation.

The survey questions were informed by the researchers’ extensive qualitative research, which included interviews with 187 people with low incomes in urban, suburban and rural areas in the Midwest. The survey asks how often people experience various symptoms of transportation security and assigns a transportation security score based on their responses. Transportation security scores are divided into five levels of transportation insecurity: no insecurity, marginal insecurity, low insecurity, moderate insecurity and high insecurity.

“By focusing on symptoms of transportation insecurity, the Transportation Security Index spares urban planners, government officials, social scientists and transportation experts from attempting the impossible task of cataloging every possible variable—from bus schedules to gas prices—that influences transportation insecurity,” said Alix Gould-Werth, director of Family Economic Security Policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth who co-led the Transportation Security Index research with Murphy.

“The index offers new insights into who is experiencing transportation insecurity and the severity of the experience.”

Researchers validated the index against a nationally representative sample, which supported the Transportation Security Index as a useful way to measure a range of experiences of transportation insecurity. The findings have been published in 2018 and 2021 articles in Survey Practice, an editor-reviewed journal published by the American Association for Public Opinion Research; and this week in Socius, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Sociological Association.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation; Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality; and the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions, Office of Research, Department of Sociology, Center for Public Policies in Diverse Societies, MCity, Population Studies Center and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Interested in more news like this? Check out the Poverty Solutions newsletter.

 

Detroit housing loss prevention program yields 85% homeownership rate four years later

Contacts: Lauren Slagter, lslag@umich.edu; Nardy Baeza Bickel nbbickel@umich.edu

DETROIT – A program designed to help tenants in Detroit to purchase their homes helped 85% of participants sustain homeownership for four years, an important milestone as owners may start to see the wealth-building benefits and other advantages of homeownership after at least five years of ownership.

The findings from an evaluation of the Make It Home program by the University of Michigan also offers recommendations for sustaining homeownership among more households with low incomes, such as providing financial counseling, a home inspection prior to purchasing the home and financial help for major repairs, if needed.

“The study underscores the importance of affordability and housing that is in good condition to promote stability among people with low incomes,” said Roshanak Mehdipanah, an associate professor of health behavior and health education at U-M’s School of Public Health and co-author of the Make It Home evaluation. “It was the tenants who didn’t have any path to homeownership who saw the most instability.”

The U-M analysis focused on the first year of the Make It Home program’s implementation in 2017 when the City of Detroit used the Right of First Refusal to help 80 Detroit renters to purchase their homes. People in the program lived in properties experiencing tax foreclosure, meaning the property owner had failed to pay property taxes for at least three years. 

The City of Detroit used donated funds from Rocket Community Fund (formerly Quicken Loans Community Fund) to purchase tax-foreclosed homes from the Wayne County Treasurer and transferred them to United Community Housing Coalition.

UCHC then sold the properties to tenants with quit claim deeds or on 0% interest land contracts, an alternative to mortgage lending that allows prospective buyers to make monthly payments toward homeownership. 

Since its start, Make It Home has helped nearly 1,200 households in Detroit avoid housing loss by giving them the opportunity to purchase the properties where they live.

By the end of the first year of the program, 81% of Make It Home’s initial 80 participants (65) owned their homes outright or continued to hold a land contract. In the four years following the properties’ tax foreclosure in 2017, Make It Home resulted in sustained homeownership for 85% of participants. The median household size for the initial Make it Home group was three people, and 89% of participants made less than $37,080 a year. 

“The Make It Home program set out with two main goals: to prevent tenants from losing their housing in the crisis of a landlord’s tax foreclosure and to help them sustain their homeownership. Our evaluation found the program accomplished those goals for 85% of its first group of participants,” said Margaret Dewar, professor emerita of urban and regional planning at U-M and co-author of the evaluation of the Make It Home program. 

To compare results, researchers also studied outcomes for 154 households with similar characteristics that UCHC attempted to help buy at the county 2017 tax auction. In that group, only 27% sustained homeownership four years later, 109 had their homes sold at auction, and 15% of those tenants experienced eviction within the next four years. 

Of the original Make it Home group, six households that successfully purchased their houses went on to sell them after less than four years of ownership. But even those homeowners said they were glad to have been able to buy their houses and wanted to stay despite the hardships they had encountered, according to the researchers. 

One participant said Make It Home reduced the “bad feeling [of] not having a place to stay,” while another said the program provided the opportunity to “save the home” where the household had been living for a long time. Participants spoke about the “ease” of acquiring their home because of the support provided by UCHC. For some, homeownership had seemed unattainable prior to this process.

The researchers said numerous factors threaten the continued homeownership by program’s participants. More than 30% of Make It Home purchasers faced imminent foreclosure for failure to pay property taxes. Two homeowners left their houses vacant. Owners cited hardships with poor condition of the houses, high housing-related expenses, and loss of income during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People said they sold their houses because they couldn’t keep up with repairs and the lack of upkeep was presenting health hazards. They sold because a loved one had died, a relationship ended, or an investor harassed them into selling the house. Housing instability compounds the stress of navigating these life crises,” Dewar said. 

The researchers recommend ways to improve sustained homeownership rates for buyers with low incomes, including:

  • Provide pre-purchase homeowner education and financial counseling to help people build the financial stability needed to purchase and continue to own a house; 
  • Inspect houses prior to purchase, so prospective buyers have a clear understanding of the scale of needed repairs; 
  • Increase home insurance awareness and access, as land contracts do not require the buyer to carry home insurance and out-of-pocket repair costs can be expensive; 
  • Provide financial help for major housing repairs to people who cannot obtain a conventional home repair loan or equity line of credit due to low credit scores, lack of equity in a property, or lack of disposable income for loan payments; and 
  • Make post-purchase support like utility payment plans and property tax relief available to deal with ongoing housing costs and prevent loss of housing. 

“Additional support services would help ensure homeowners receive the benefits of longer-term homeownership. In Detroit, assistance in enrolling in programs that reduce property taxes is vital because tax delinquency can quickly lead to loss of a home,” Mehdipanah said. “By monitoring efforts like the Make It Home program over time, we gain new insights into the challenges facing homeowners and the types of support that would make a difference.”

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Poverty Solutions to study Oakland County’s healthy food system landscape

PONTIAC – Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, with the support of the Board of Commissioners, announced $700,000 in food assistance grants today at the Oak Park Farmers Market to help eligible families access nutritious food as the prices of fruits, vegetables, milk, and other staples continue to rise.

The county is also allocating $250,000 to the Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the money for fresh produce at farmers markets for people eligible for food assistance.

“Our goal here is to reach any Oakland County resident struggling with food insecurity,” Coulter said. “We don’t want our families to scrimp on other essentials, like rent or utilities or medicines, so they can make sure they don’t go hungry.”

The Pontiac Community Foundation and Lighthouse each will implement $350,000 in food assistance grants. Lighthouse will utilize the funds to bolster its emergency food assistance. It has provided emergency food to approximately 5,000 households each week since the beginning of the pandemic. The Pontiac Community Foundation will provide grants of up to $50,000 to small to midsize organizations that aren’t traditional food providers but found themselves in that role during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for Oakland County’s commitment to provide critical food assistance for residents,” Pontiac Community Foundation CEO Dustin McLellan said. “As the pandemic rages on and cost-of-living expenses continue to rise, many families are still struggling to have their basic needs met.  We look forward to partnering with food providers across the county, to provide help and support where it’s needed most.”

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved this allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars for the food access initiative and Double Up Food Bucks program during its June 23 meeting. Both programs aim to address the critical needs to address food security and increase access to healthy food.

“The county has once again done its job by stepping in and helping the people and organizations of its community,” Commissioner Yolanda Smith Charles, who is from Southfield and represents part of Oak Park, said. “My fellow commissioners and I were happy to support a program that is increasing access to healthy food for our residents, especially as all of us are seeing increasing prices at the grocery store.”

Coulter also announced that the county is partnering with the Poverty Solutions initiative at the University of Michigan to conduct a comprehensive healthy food system landscape study which will look at everything from healthy food systems and providers in Oakland County, to the role that urban farms and farmers play in getting nutritious food to families. The study will also examine transportation routes and how it might be a challenge for some families to have access to grocery stores.

“In the wealthiest county in Michigan, more than 11% of our children are listed as food insecure, up from 8%

before the pandemic, and it’s not just in the cities with greater poverty numbers that are affected,” Coulter said

Oakland County Health Division has several established food assistance programs in the community. These include:

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a supplemental program that provides food benefits, nutrition and breastfeeding education and support to pregnant women and children under five. WIC Project Fresh provides a $25 booklet containing $5 coupons to WIC participants. These coupons can be used through Oct. 31 at authorized farmers markets and roadside stands throughout Michigan, including at the Oak Park Farmers Market which hosted today’s announcement.
  • Healthy Oakland Partnership coordinates Family and Senior Market Day events at local farmers markets to promote healthy eating and support local agriculture by distributing $5 coupons to people 60 years or older, those who have a Michigan Bridge card, and WIC participants to spend at participating farmers markets.
  • Prescription for a Healthy Oakland County connects residents who are foo insecure and at risk for chronic disease to vouchers that can be spent on fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery stores. The program works with participants’ healthcare providers to address chronic health conditions through education and the food vouchers.

“At the Health Division we work diligently to educate the community about the benefits of healthy foods and the positive impact on quality of life and health,” Oakland County Health Officer Calandra Green said.  “Eating healthy can improve a person’s ability to learn and work effectively while reducing the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease.”

Washtenaw County should consider long-term impact, implementation of ARPA allocations

Contact: Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027, lslag@umich.edu 
               Morgan Sherburne, 734-647-1844, morganls@umich.edu 

A new policy brief from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative offers recommendations for ways to target funding to key programs and priorities, focus on program implementation, and consider long-term impacts as Washtenaw County leaders decide how to allocate the rest of its American Rescue Plan Act money.

With about half of Washtenaw County’s $71 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated, U-M researchers evaluated the county’s spending priorities to offer new insights on strategies to maximize long-term impact and promote equity with the one-time spending.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $350 billion in federal funding for state and local governments to assist with pandemic recovery for small businesses, households and hard-hit industries, and replace lost revenue for government services. Washtenaw County has received the $71 million over two allotments in May 2021 and May 2022, and the county’s Board of Commissioners has voted on how to spend $36 million of the funds so far.

“These funds will be substantial in aiding the county’s pandemic recovery efforts. With more money to be allocated and distribution decisions still undetermined, this is an opportunity to maximize the impact of the ARPA funds to increase equity within Washtenaw County,” said Amanda Nothaft, senior data and evaluation manager at Poverty Solutions and author of the policy brief, “One-time Spending for Long-term Impact: Evaluating Washtenaw County’s American Rescue Plan Act Allocations.”

While Washtenaw County boasts high levels of educational attainment, relatively high incomes and good health outcomes, these overall metrics hide wide disparities in outcomes for residents in different parts of the county. Access to opportunity in Washtenaw County is often tied to race and place.

Poverty Solutions partnered with the county’s Office of Community and Economic Development to revamp the Washtenaw County Opportunity Index, which combines 16 indicators into five categories of opportunity—health, job access, economic well-being, education and training, and community engagement and stability—to identify which parts of the county experience the highest and lowest levels of access to opportunity.

Washtenaw County commissioners formally committed in 2021 to use the Opportunity Index to apply an equity lens to their decision making and county initiatives. ARPA funds provide a unique opportunity to bolster the county’s current efforts to eliminate gaps in opportunity and promote equity, Nothaft said.

The policy brief offers an evaluation of Washtenaw County’s current ARPA allocations, which include:

  • Navigation and financial assistance to help families find child care
  • Creation of Children’s Savings Accounts for all public school students
  • Broadband expansion
  • Expanding access to home weatherization services
  • Investing in the Washtenaw County Health Department
  • Launching a Mobile Support Services Initiative
  • Creating a Community Priority Fund to provide funding to organizations serving communities with low access to opportunity that were hit hard by the pandemic

The evaluation recommends considering the number of people eligible and amount of money dedicated to the currently-funded initiatives to determine whether additional funds are necessary to achieve the intended impact. The policy brief also cautions against creating too many new initiatives and programs that will not have sustainable funding sources once the ARPA money is spent, and instead points to the value of investing in projects like water, transportation, and neighborhood infrastructure that will have long-term impact after a single infusion of funds.

Distributing ARPA money via grants and in partnership with community organizations should include a process to ensure the recipients have the capacity and track record to accomplish what they propose and that their interventions are backed by evidence and have measurable outcomes.

According to the policy brief, the goals of closing gaps in educational, economic and health outcomes by bringing services to people in need and providing funding to organizations that work within the community can only be met if these programs are fully funded and carefully implemented.

 

9 in 10 Detroit eviction cases filed during pandemic came from landlords not compliant with rental codes

Contact: Lauren Slagter, lslag@umich.edu

DETROIT—Despite pandemic-related eviction prevention measures, thousands of Detroit renters were evicted in the past two years due to loopholes in policies and enforcement.

Analysis of court data by University of Michigan researchers shows nearly 90% of eviction cases filed in Detroit during the pandemic came from landlords whose properties were not in compliance with the city’s rental ordinance. Eviction case filings are on the rise in 2022, signaling the potential return to a cycle of mass evictions.

Researchers say enforcing existing rental laws and making some pandemic-era interventions permanent will be key to maintaining housing stability for more Detroiters, especially as the state’s COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program closes at the end of June.

Alexa Eisenberg

“Even with unprecedented eviction prevention measures in place, major policy and enforcement gaps meant that landlords and the court still forcibly uprooted thousands of renters from their homes and neighborhoods during the pandemic,” said Alexa Eisenberg, a postdoctoral research fellow at U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative. “As federal rental aid expires and the affordable housing crisis escalates, mass evictions will continue unabated if city, state and court officials do not act.”

Eisenberg was part of a team of researchers that reviewed more than 59,700 residential eviction cases filed from January 2019 through March 2022 with the 36th District Court that serves Detroit. In 2020, the number of residential eviction cases filed in Detroit fell to 36% of the pre-pandemic level, which was roughly 30,000 eviction cases each year—the equivalent of 1 in 5 Detroit renter households facing displacement annually.

Eviction filings rose in 2021 to 60% of the pre-pandemic level and continued to increase to about 75% of the pre-pandemic level as of April.

The analysis found nearly 90% of the 25,500 eviction cases filed in Detroit between March 2020 and March 2022 were for properties that did not have a certificate of compliance at the time. The city of Detroit’s rental ordinance requires landlords to register their properties and obtain a certificate of compliance before they can rent out their properties. As of March, data from the city of Detroit’s Open Data Portal indicated that just 6% of Detroit’s rental properties had a certificate of compliance.

By enforcing evictions for landlords whose properties violate health and safety codes, the courts reinforce an unjust power dynamic between landlords and tenants that privileges the landlord’s income over the tenant’s right to a safe and habitable home, Eisenberg says.

The research uses data from The Eviction Machine, an organizing, advocacy and research tool that was developed by the Urban Praxis Workshop with support from U-M Poverty Solutions and Data Driven Detroit.

RelatedDetroit’s Eviction Machine: How the foreclosure crisis opened the door for corporate landlords to destabilize neighborhoods

In addition to tracking the number of eviction filings—the first step initiating an eviction in court—this latest research also gathered data on the type of complaint that prompted the eviction filing, the outcomes of the cases, and whether the landlord and tenant had legal counsel:

  • Common causes of eviction: Similar to 2019, most eviction cases filed during the pandemic (66%) were for nonpayment of rent. No-cause eviction cases—where the rental agreement allows the landlord to terminate tenancy at any time—rose during the pandemic. This may indicate landlords’ reluctance to go through the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance application process with their tenants, as no-cause eviction cases are not eligible for the rent assistance program and were not covered by the federal eviction moratorium. No-cause eviction filings accounted for 28% of all cases filed after the CERA program began in April 2021, compared to 17% previously.
  • Common outcomes of eviction cases: Prior to the onset of COVID-19, 77% of closed eviction cases resulted in a judgment, compared to 29% of cases since. The most common type of judgment is a default—meaning the tenant did not attend a scheduled court hearing, so the judge ruled in favor of the landlord by default. Default judgments accounted for 24% of closed eviction cases during the pandemic, compared to 43% prior to the pandemic.
  • Trends in legal representation: Pandemic relief funds allowed local legal aid organizations to provide free legal advice to all tenants who attended their hearings, but the funds did not cover full representation to all who needed it. Tenants in 22% of cases closed during the pandemic had lawyers, a proportion seven times higher than before. Still, 92% of landlords had attorneys during the pandemic, up from 85% before.
  • Distributing COVID Emergency Rental Assistance: Slow distribution of CERA payments disparately impacted Detroit’s majority-Black renters. CERA payments reached just 36% of Wayne County applicants in 2021, compared to 50% statewide. Wayne County is home to 18% of Michigan’s population and 50% of the state’s Black population; it accounted for 32% of statewide CERA applicants between April 2021 and March 2022.

“The past two years have demonstrated that mass evictions are a policy choice. Our findings show that COVID-19 eviction response measures reduced the scale of Detroit’s eviction crisis relative to 2019 and prevented many cases from reaching the most violent and disruptive stages of the legal eviction process,” Eisenberg said. “Lawmakers can stop unjust evictions if they act urgently to enforce existing laws, make pandemic-era changes permanent and strengthen tenant protections.”

The U-M researchers identify several steps that state and local policymakers can take right now to prevent evictions during the remainder of the pandemic and beyond:

  • Enforce Detroit’s rental code by requiring that landlords have a certificate of compliance in order to file an eviction case.
  • Enact just-cause policies that would reduce no-cause evictions by establishing a list of valid reasons for evictions that landlords must prove while filing an eviction case.
  • Increase tenants’ access to court proceedings and reduce default judgments by permanently adopting pandemic-era changes like requiring pretrial hearings before a judgment can be issued.
  • Address racial inequities in the distribution of CERA funds by making sure the housing stability of tenants is not further jeopardized by application backlogs.

 

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

Note: A previous version of this figure incorrectly labeled which colors represent “about the same” and “better financial situation” in how Detroiters described their shifting financial situation over the past year.

Contact: Lauren Slagter, lslag@umich.edu, 734-929-8027
Morgan Sherburne, morganls@umich.edu 

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, lslag@umich.edu,
Morgan Sherburne, morganls@umich.edu

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, lslag@umich.edu
Jared Wadley, jwadley@umich.edu

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.

 

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

Contact: Lauren Slagter, 734-929-8027, lslag@umich.edu

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 www.michiganceal.org.