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Rent, mortgage linked to worse health outcomes during early stages of pandemic

Contact: Nardy Baeza Bickel, 734-763-0368, nbbickel@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR — During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, having to make rent or mortgage payments was significantly associated with health and mental distress, according to new research from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“Housing instability and COVID-19-related hardships have contributed to an increase in health inequities in the U.S.,” said Gregory Bushman, U-M doctoral student in public health and lead author of the study. “On the other hand, stable housing may have lessened the negative health effects of some of the hardships that people have faced during the pandemic, such as job loss.”

For their study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Bushman and Roshanak Mehdipanah analyzed the responses from the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey Study, collected early in the pandemic between April and July 2020. 

According to the survey, 22% of homeowners did not have to pay mortgages, while 46% paid mortgages and 32% rented their homes.

The researchers looked at how COVID-19-related hardships such as job loss, food insecurity and inability to pay housing-associated costs impacted survey respondents’ assessments of self-rated health and mental distress.

They found that compared to those without mortgage debt, homeowners with mortgage debt and renters reported worse self-rated health and higher levels of mental distress. Additionally, they found that differences in self-rated health between these groups grew over time.

“Homeowners with mortgage debt and renters experienced job loss more and  experienced mental distress and self-rated health at much higher levels compared to homeowners without mortgage and debt,” said Mehdipanah, assistant professor of health behavior and health education and senior author of the study. “We know housing is a social determinant of health. We need to invest in both research and policy to develop affordable, adequate and accessible housing in cities in order to reduce health inequities.”

Some of the study’s findings include:

  • Renters were more likely to have experienced job loss (58%), food insecurity (48%) and inability to pay housing-associated costs during this period (32%) than homeowners. Renters also reported the poorest self-rated health and highest levels of mental distress.
  • Food insecurity and low confidence in paying rent/mortgage were associated with low self-rated health and high mental distress among both renters and homeowners.
  • Individuals who owned their homes without mortgage debt reported the best self-rated health and lowest levels of mental distress.

Mehdipanah said the study highlights the importance of housing as a determinant of health. In 2019, about 37 million Americans were paying more than 30% of their household income toward monthly housing costs. And an additional 17.6 million were spending more than half of their income on housing costs prior. These figures are expected to get worse since the pandemic. 

“In addition, we’re seeing for the first time a larger population over the age of 65 with mortgages that we had never seen before,” she said. “Our study highlights how important housing is, especially at a time where the first measure or the first preventive piece was to stay at home and to wash your hands. If you don’t have a house or your housing is unstable and you don’t have running water to wash your hands, then you’re now at higher risk for COVID-19 and an array of other different diseases and issues.”

The researchers hope to continue their research on newer data to look at how existing programs and policies can reduce the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.

Study: Housing and health inequities during COVID-19: Findings from the national Household Pulse Survey

Release courtesy of Michigan News.

Addressing links between poverty, housing, water access and affordability in Detroit

Contact: Conor Durkin, 734-646-8754, cmdurkin@umich.edu 
               Jim Erickson, 734-647-1842, ericksn@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR — In a new study of access to clean and affordable water in Detroit, University of Michigan researchers  found 10% of the city’s population is “triple burdened,” meaning those residents live in census tracts with higher than average rates of poverty, housing cost burden and incomplete plumbing.

And in some Detroit neighborhoods, up to 10% of homes lack complete access to water, meaning they lack either hot and cold running water, a bathtub or shower, or a sink with a faucet, according to the study funded by U-M’s Poverty Solutions initiative.

“Ensuring water access and affordability for Detroit residents is critical,” said Sara Hughes, an environmental policy analyst at the School for Environment and Sustainability and lead author of the study. “Solving the water access and affordability challenge in Detroit requires engaging with the interactive consequences of an aging system, high levels of poverty and persistent housing challenges.”

Hughes and other researchers at SEAS and U-M’s Erb Institute analyzed census tracts and mapped the overlap between various factors that affect water affordability. They assessed ways current actions, while effective, fail to meet the scale needed for the city to link residents with clean, affordable water.

In their Poverty Solutions policy brief, the authors also propose strategies to address water security concerns in Detroit:

  • Expand funding for residential plumbing repairs. As the federal government considers additional drinking water investments, resources should be available for repairs as well as direct bill assistance.

  • Use city water data to identify target investments, reach customers with the greatest need and reduce barriers to access.

  • Strengthen coordination between city departments. Greater coordination between the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Detroit Health Department, Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department and the city’s Office of Sustainability could help to identify synergistic and innovative strategies to prevent future systems from disrepair.

According to Hughes and her colleagues, Detroit’s median household income ($30,894) is just over half the median for statewide households ($57,144), and more than one-third of the city’s residents live below the poverty line. At the same time, 41% of the city’s residents face high housing costs—defined as exceeding 30% of household income—and this number is even higher for renters (53%).

On top of that, nearly half of the city’s residents pay more than 3% of their income for water, a common benchmark for water affordability. Water consumption per capita is much lower than the national average, yet Detroit residents still have higher water costs.

“The pandemic highlighted how important it is from a public health perspective that people have reliable access to clean water, for hand washing and other measures that are not possible if you don’t have running water or can’t afford your water bill,” Hughes said. “People were also losing wages, making it even tougher to keep up with water bills.”

The majority of Detroit residents’ homes were built before 1950, and some low-income households are in some of the city’s oldest homes, according to the Poverty Solutions policy brief. These aging homes are more likely to need costly repairs that heighten the burden of high housing costs.

The report notes that although state and federal programs exist to assist with energy concerns for households, like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, similar programs do not exist for water concerns. Funds for water and sewage assistance for Michigan residents are reserved only for emergencies and have gone widely underused by the state.

For Detroit, programs like the Great Lakes Water Authority’s Water Residential Assistance Program assist customers in low-income areas with water bills and reduction of water consumption. WRAP offers conservation audits to households exceeding 120% of the city’s average water consumption, with a cap of $1,500 in repairs and maintenance costs.

However, insufficient funds have limited the number of homes WRAP has been able to assist, as well as the degree they are able to repair. The report found “nearly all (97%) of participating households needed additional plumbing repairs beyond those provided during the audit.” The total number of homes WRAP assisted in 2019 was 2,047, which is about half of the total number of households that lacked complete plumbing.

The policy brief shows that existing programs, while they provide improvements, fail to meet the amount of Detroit households in need of aid to make substantial repairs.

Although plumbing repairs will not eliminate the water affordability crisis in Detroit, they are an essential step toward providing clean and accessible water, according to the report’s authors.

The other authors of the Poverty Solutions policy brief are Kathryn Maloney, Anna Kaczmarek and Heather Newberry of the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability, and Elizabeth Wallace of U-M’s Erb Institute.

Policy brief: Addressing the Links Between Poverty, Housing and Water Access and Affordability in Detroit

U-M Water and Climate Policy Lab

Release courtesy of Michigan News.

Concern about safety is main reason many Detroiters are not getting vaccinated, U-M survey finds

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

DETROIT — About half of adults living in Detroit are not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data just released from a University of Michigan survey. Among Detroiters who have not received any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, nearly 8 out of 10 cited concerns about the safety of the vaccine among their reasons. A similar number of unvaccinated Detroiters, 78%, also reported that concerns about side effects were among the reasons they had not gotten vaccinated.

In general, unvaccinated Detroiters were far less likely to say they trust the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the vaccine (51%), than those who have already been vaccinated (6%). When asked about the single, “main reason” Detroiters have not been vaccinated, safety concerns were the most common reason offered (29%). According to the representative survey of Detroit households conducted by U-M’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), concern about side effects was a slightly less important factor, with 22% of respondents saying it was the “main reason” they had not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. 

While unvaccinated members of all ethnoracial and age groups were primarily concerned about the safety and the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, there was some variation in how members of different ethnoracial and age groups prioritized other concerns. Black (19%) and Latino (16%) residents were more than twice as likely as White (6%) residents to report that they did not get a vaccine due to concerns about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.  Residents under 40 were also more likely than those between 40 and 64 to avoid getting the vaccine because they felt their risk of getting COVID-19 or getting seriously ill from COVID-19 is low.

Given these concerns, the U-M survey also asked respondents whom they trust for information about COVID-19. Among unvaccinated Detroiters, news media were, by far, the least trusted sources for information on COVID-19. Only 10% of unvaccinated Detroiters said they placed high trust in the news media for this information. On the other hand, about one-third of unvaccinated Detroiters reported that they trusted their doctors a great deal for information on COVID-19.

“With COVID-19 cases rising again in Michigan and public health officials warning about a pandemic among the unvaccinated, these data highlight that trust, and not access, is the main factor deterring Detroiters from getting vaccinated at this stage. These findings also illustrate that more personal appeals to get vaccinated are more likely to be persuasive than mass appeals through news media,” said Elisabeth Gerber, one of the faculty research leads for DMACS, professor of public policy and political science, and a research associate in the Center for Political Studies. 

Importantly, the survey results demonstrate that vaccine hesitancy is surmountable. More than 1 in 3 residents (34%) who reported being unlikely to get vaccinated between January and March 2021 have since received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

“Our data call attention to opportunities to continue increasing vaccination levels across the city,” 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. “Many residents who told us in previous waves that they were unlikely to be vaccinated have in fact gotten a vaccine shot, suggesting that there is a persuadable population. We also find very few residents who start but don’t complete their vaccine course, which means if we can get people in the pipeline we can keep building immunity in our communities.”

DMACS has been surveying representative samples of Detroiters since 2016. This latest wave of the survey was open from June 2 – July 9, 2021 and captures the views of 1,898 residents. To represent the views of the city as a whole, survey responses are weighted to match Detroit’s population demographics.

This wave of the survey was conducted in collaboration with, and supported by, Michigan CEAL: Communities Conquering COVID (MICEAL), 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, funded by the National Institutes of Health (1 OT2 HL 156812). For more on Michigan CEAL, please visit www.michiganceal.org.

Coalition launches effort to reduce child poverty in Detroit by connecting families with expanded Child Tax Credit

  • Eligible families can receive up to $3,600 for every child in household
  • Full participation could lift 8,000 Detroit families out of poverty 
  • The new campaign includes outreach across Detroit to inform residents about resources available to them as part of federal effort 
  • Get eligibility info and find assistance at GetTheTaxFacts.org 

Nearly 20,000 Detroit children can be lifted out of poverty if every eligible family takes advantage of an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) within the American Rescue Plan, a coalition of city and civic leaders announced today.

The one-year expanded provision of up to $3,600 per child under the age of 18 for qualifying families is available as a monthly payment starting in July — provided they file taxes. Although the tax filing deadline this year was May 17, there is no penalty for filing late if you do not owe taxes or are due a refund. If you do owe taxes, filing sooner will minimize any potential late fees.

To help as many families as possible take advantage of this one-time windfall, a coalition of nonprofits, the City of Detroit, and education partners and foundations are launching an outreach and engagement campaign to ensure parents and young people benefit from the newly expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC).   The campaign is being led by United Way for Southeastern Michigan, City of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, Accounting Aid Society, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, the Kresge, and Skillman Foundations, and Ballmer Group.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to cut childhood poverty in half across America, and the city has come together with dozens of partners to ensure Detroiters do not miss their chance,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, citing federal projections of the impact of the Child Tax Credits alongside enhanced unemployment insurance and other provisions of the American Rescue Plan.

“We anticipate reaching those families that otherwise would not have taken advantage of the credit unless assisted on the process,” Duggan added.

Who is eligible?

You qualify for the Child Tax Credit if you meet these three criteria:

  • You are a parent, guardian, or caregiver with dependent children up to age 17.
  • Your child has a Social Security Number. You can file with an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number), but your child must have a Social Security Number.
  • You fall below the following income limits to receive the full credit:
    • If you are single and meet the requirements for filing taxes as a head of household, your income must be under $112,500.
    • If you are single and do not meet the requirements for filing as head of household, your income must be under $75,000.
    • If you have a spouse and choose to file your taxes jointly, your combined income must be under $150,000.
    • If your household income is above those thresholds, you will receive slightly smaller payments, depending on your income.

How to Ensure You Get Your Payments

If you’ve filed tax returns for 2019 or 2020, or if you signed up to receive a stimulus check from the Internal Revenue Service, you will get your Child Tax Credit payments automatically. You do not need to sign up or take any action.

If you filed 2019 or 2020 taxes, or utilized the Non-Filer tool for the Economic Impact Payments (stimulus check) but need to update your information, you will be able to add or change your bank account information on the IRS website in the coming weeks, through the IRS’s Child Tax Credit Update Portal.

If you haven’t filed 2019 or 2020 taxes, or have not used the non-filer tool on the IRS website to get your stimulus check you should file your taxes now or use the IRS non-filer tool.

Free Tax Preparation available

To learn more about the Child Tax Credit and to get free tax preparation assistance, residents can call 2-1-1 or visit GetTheTaxFacts.org.  From there, they will be able to schedule an appointment for free tax preparation assistance or to learn more about the non-filer portal launched by the IRS.

Building on the Get the Tax Facts campaign launched by United Way earlier this year, this campaign hinges on the promotion of free tax preparation services and includes additional support to ensure Detroiters maximize other benefits for which they are eligible.

Longtime Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) providers Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency will provide individualized assistance to prepare and file taxes through virtual, drop-n-go, and in-person appointments.

Campaign organizers are also working with the Bank On coalition to help families without a bank account set up certified accounts to receive the monthly Child Tax Credit payments and other direct deposit state benefits.

To increase awareness, volunteers will be going door-to-door to thousands of low-income households.  Community Development Advocates of Detroit, along with a group of community development organizations and other family-focused nonprofit organizations, will conduct neighborhood outreach efforts to share information about the tax credits, provide individualized support to residents to make tax preparation appointments, and help families to apply for additional benefits.

“Demand for ethical, quality tax preparation assistance for low to moderate income families has never been higher,” said Kathleen Aro, Accounting Aid’s president. “At Accounting Aid Society, we are focused on adding capacity and improving technology in order to serve as many metro Detroiters as possible in this critical moment and beyond. There has never been a more impactful time to volunteer or to invest in this work.”

“Ensuring that clients have access to free, non-predatory, secure tax preparation services is crucial for families to gain access to additional resources available to them, such as the CTC,” said Louis Piszker, Chief Executive Officer of Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. “We have continued to utilize several different strategies to safely complete tax returns to meet the need for these families. We continue to see the need post-season and are expanding our efforts to help meet that demand and the community needs.”

“Our members are place-based organizations working in neighborhoods across the city. They are essential to connecting the families and children they work with to opportunities to thrive. These are the very organizations that serve people on the blocks where they live and are absolutely critical to any effort to connect children and families to resources,” said Madhavi Reddy, executive director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit. “We are thrilled to be able to work on this historic initiative to reduce child poverty with our members.”

“In our region, more than 128,000 families with children are struggling to afford necessities like food, quality housing, and child care, according to United Way’s ALICE report. We are committed to ensuring every family has the resources to meet their basic needs, which is why we’re proud to be part of this important effort to help households access their full, increased tax credit,” said Darienne Hudson, President & CEO of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

“This coalition has come together to make sure that families raising children — particularly those with the lowest incomes and least access to resources — take advantage of the Child Tax Credit and other available resources,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Detroit Program. “And make no mistake: This is about families and children, and it is also about all of Detroit and the future of our city.”

Beyond the immediate campaign goals, partners in the effort believe this can demonstrate a model of how community-based organizations can coordinate efforts to expand access to public benefits and advance their economic mobility. Partners also hope for the success of this outreach effort to build a case for sustained federal investment to support children and their families.

“We know when we, as a community, invest in families it provides them with the tools to thrive,” said Luke Shaefer, faculty director of Poverty Solutions. “Making sure all eligible Detroit families access these critical resources and seeing the impacts is essential to help build momentum towards making this expansion permanent.”

Release courtesy of the City of Detroit 

 

Michigan eviction filings dropped 65% in 2020, compared to pre-pandemic

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

ANN ARBOR—New research from the University of Michigan offers insights into how Michigan can maintain the low eviction rates achieved during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Michigan Eviction Project, led by U-M faculty and housing attorneys, found that in total the number of eviction cases filed between April and December 2020 represented a 65% decrease from the number of cases filed during those months in 2019. 

The percentage of cases resulting in eviction orders also dropped during the pandemic, and Michigan’s statewide Eviction Diversion Program dramatically increased the number of tenants receiving legal assistance in eviction cases. However, these trends could change as pandemic-era policies and programs wind down.

The findings—from the new report “Reducing Michigan Evictions: The Pandemic and Beyond“—follow the Michigan Eviction Project’s comprehensive review of evictions in Michigan, released in 2020. That report found that the state’s eviction filing rate was 17% in 2018, the equivalent to one eviction filing for every six occupied rental units in Michigan and more than twice the estimated national filing rate.

“The drastic decrease in evictions during the pandemic was the result of action taken by federal, state and local governments, the state court system and tenant activists. Some of the emergency supports put in place are set to expire, and stakeholders should act now to permanently reduce eviction rates and the negative outcomes associated with housing instability,” said Margaret Dewar, professor emerita at U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Dewar co-authored “Reducing Michigan Evictions: The Pandemic and Beyond” with Elizabeth Benton, staff attorney at Legal Services of South Central Michigan; Robert Goodspeed, associate professor of urban planning at U-M’s Taubman College; and Robert Gillett, attorney and chair of the Housing Committee of the Michigan State Planning Body, a forum for planning and coordinating delivery of civil and criminal legal services to people with low incomes. The research is supported by Poverty Solutions at U-M. 

Ongoing analysis by the Michigan Eviction Project shows that before the pandemic—in 2019 and the first two months of 2020—Michigan landlords filed 12,000 to 18,000 eviction cases every month. From mid-March through July 2020—while courts were closed and with eviction moratoriums in place—eviction filings fell to nearly zero. From August 2020 through January 2021, landlords filed 8,000 to 10,000 cases each month.

The percentage of cases resulting in evictions also fell during the pandemic. From April through December 2019, 29% of cases resulted in eviction orders, which allow a court officer, bailiff, sheriff, deputy sheriff or police officer to remove the tenant and the tenant’s personal belongings from the property. 

During the same period in 2020, only 10% of cases resulted in eviction orders. However, the eviction rate increased at the end of 2020 and early in 2021, with 11% of cases filed in November 2020, 17% of cases filed in December 2020, and 20% of cases filed in April 2021 resulting in evictions. 

Based on the eviction rate derived from courts providing detailed data to the State Court Administrative Office, researchers estimate all courts statewide likely entered eviction orders in as many as 9,979 cases during the pandemic, from April 2020 through April 2021.

“The pandemic made evictions a major housing policy focus at the state and federal level,” Benton said. “Prior research shows evictions are both a result and a cause of poverty, with implications for job stability, educational achievement for kids and health outcomes.”

The Michigan Eviction Project’s previous report recommended many of the interventions adopted in 2020, including emergency rental assistance funding, expanding eviction diversion programs statewide, and changing court procedures to give tenants an opportunity to connect with legal services and protect their rights. 

Michigan’s statewide Eviction Diversion Program, which operated from July to December 2020, dramatically increased the number of tenants receiving legal assistance and representation in eviction cases. EDP-funded legal aid staff provided some level of assistance to tenants in 15,234 eviction cases—32% of the eviction cases filed during the program. In the cases where legal aid provided extensive services, 97% of tenants avoided eviction.

Prior to the pandemic, an attorney represented less than 5% of tenants in eviction cases from 2014 to 2018, compared to 83% of landlords. 

“The temporary Eviction Diversion Program provided valuable lessons,” Goodspeed said. “The eviction data show the difference that legal representation makes in allowing people to stay in their homes. Legal services directors said they need a long-term funding commitment in order to hire the housing attorneys needed to provide legal services to all tenants facing eviction and people facing foreclosure, which can then lead to eviction.”

To maintain Michigan’s lower eviction filing rates, researchers offered recommendations related to moratoriums, emergency rental assistance, eviction diversion programs and right to counsel, eviction procedure changes, eviction data, tenant organizing, and housing affordability.

Especially urgent is the need to plan for the end of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions, which is in place until June 30. Recent court decisions have already challenged the CDC’s authority to enact the moratorium; while it remains in effect in Michigan, it could end any time through judicial action. 

“The state’s executive branch and the State Court Administrative Office need to proactively prepare for the end of the eviction moratorium to prevent a sudden surge in evictions,” Gillett said. “They can outline a process to address pending and new evictions, and ensure tenants have adequate time to access COVID Emergency Rental Assistance funds intended to help prevent evictions. 

“We need to start now to engage all the stakeholders invested in maintaining a stable rental market in Michigan.” 

 

 

 

 

U-M Poverty Solutions senior research associate testifies at U.S. House hearing on student homelessness

By Lauren Slagter
Poverty Solutions

Jennifer Erb-Downward, senior research associate at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on Wednesday, May 19. The hearing was titled “Picking up the Pieces: Strengthening Connections with Students Experiencing Homelessness and Children in Foster Care,” and the other witnesses included the executive director of the School District of Philadelphia, a foster parent, and the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

At the hearing, Erb-Downward shared findings from her research on the educational challenges faced by students who do not have a stable place to live. In a new analysis of student discipline data from the Michigan Department of Education, Erb-Downward found homeless students are suspended or expelled at a rate four times higher than their housed peers who are not economically disadvantaged. Erb-Downward’s research also found 1 in 4 students who had experienced homelessness at any point during middle or high school dropped out of school.

“While housing is critical, housing alone does not close the educational gap faced by students who have experienced homelessness. Without the needed school supports, homelessness and housing instability have lasting educational impacts on children,” Erb-Downward said during her testimony. 

She also outlined the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for schools to identify and support students experiencing homelessness. In the fall of 2020, Erb-Downward partnered with SchoolHouse Connection, a national nonprofit working to overcome homelessness through education, to analyze responses to a survey sent to a national network of school homelessness liaisons.

The survey revealed the number of students identified as homeless dropped by 28% — 420,000 fewer students nationwide — compared to the previous year, even as school homelessness liaisons reported greater need in their communities during the pandemic. Another key finding was that only 18% of liaisons reported spending COVID-19 relief funds provided by the CARES Act to support homeless student outreach.

A bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators cited those survey findings in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education about implementing the $800 million designated in the American Rescue Plan Act for identifying and supporting students experiencing homelessness. 

Erb-Downward said it is important that money is used to increase the capacity of school homelessness liaisons and to bridge structural gaps that would otherwise prevent families from accessing the support they need. 

Related: What the American Rescue Plan means for children experiencing homelessness

“The longer a student who is homeless goes unidentified by their school, the more challenges that child faces and the more likely it becomes for them to struggle academically and socially at school,” Erb-Downward said during the hearing. “As we move forward, it is critical that the money in the American Rescue Plan set aside for homeless students be used to support robust identification practices at schools. The pandemic has led thousands of children who are homeless to slip through the cracks. We must find and support them.”

 

 

Anti-Asian hate: U-M chronicles location, nature of more than 1,000 incidents in 2020

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

ANN ARBOR—New research from the University of Michigan offers insights into the location, nature and perpetrators of anti-Asian hate incidents that occurred in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Virulent Hate Project, which is supported by U-M’s Center for Social Solutions and Poverty Solutions initiative, reviewed 4,337 news articles from 2020 that addressed coronavirus-related, anti-Asian racism in the United States. From those articles, researchers identified 1,023 unique incidents of anti-Asian racism.

Melissa Borja

The COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, resurfaced long-held stereotypes about Asian Americans, and stigmatizing rhetoric led to increased anti-Asian hostility in 2020 that has continued in 2021, said Melissa Borja, lead researcher on the Virulent Hate Project and assistant professor in U-M’s Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program. 

Studying these hate incidents and making the data publicly accessible can contribute to a better understanding of anti-Asian racism, shape public policy and guide the activism of Asian American community organizations, she said. The Virulent Hate Project supports the work of Stop AAPI Hate and the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University.

“We imagine this project as not just counting incidents of anti-Asian racism, but collecting hundreds of stories that can help shape the public conversation,” Borja said. “In addition to tracking anti-Asian hate incidents, it also is important to document the ways Asian American communities are resisting racism and advocating for anti-discrimination policies that will better protect them.” 

A new report from the project focuses on the nature of anti-Asian racism reported by the news media in 2020. Forthcoming reports will analyze Asian American anti-racism activism and news media coverage. 

Key findings from the new report include: 

  • Of the 1,023 unique anti-Asian hate incidents analyzed, 66% (679 incidents) involved anti-Asian harassment and vandalism that targeted individuals or groups. Approximately 33% (344 incidents) involved stigmatizing and discriminatory statements, images, policies and proposals made by individuals or groups that reproduced anti-Asian stereotypes and harmed Asian Americans as a community. 
  • Anti-Asian harassment affected Asian Americans of all ages, ethnic groups and genders, although the harassment was not experienced evenly across demographic groups. Women were the victim in 65% of anti-Asian harassment incidents, and Chinese Americans experienced nearly 58% of the harassment incidents reported in the news. 
  • Available information suggests the perpetrators of anti-Asian hate incidents were predominantly male and disproportionately white. Among politicians who made stigmatizing statements and supported discriminatory policies and proposals, the primary perpetrators were white, male and affiliated with the Republican Party. 
  • Incidents of anti-Asian harassment were reported in the news in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The majority (67%) of anti-Asian harassment incidents occurred in businesses, streets and public transit. 
  • Anti-Asian hate incidents reported in the news peaked in March and April 2020, even as most Americans limited their visits to public places due to pandemic-related lockdown and shelter-in-place policies.

“We saw two main stereotypes driving anti-Asian hostility in 2020: first, the view of Asian Americans as ‘perpetual foreigners,’ and second, the belief that Asian people and Asian Americans are a ‘yellow peril’ that pose an epidemiological, cultural, economic, racial and national security threat to the United States,” Borja said. “The fact that so many hate incidents took place in everyday public places has contributed to fear and anxiety among Asian Americans as they go about their daily lives.” 

Study: Anti-Asian Racism in 2020

Interactive maps of Anti-Asian hate incidents 

Virulent Hate Project FAQs

Poverty Solutions grants six Graduate Research Assistant Awards to further strategies to prevent and alleviate poverty

Poverty Solutions awarded six new graduate research projects, ranging from assessing Detroit’s “blight flight” to measuring economic well-being in Uganda, to PhD students across the university. The second annual Graduate Research Assistant (GSRA) Awards are granted for creative, action-based research that can inform existing policies, practices and interventions or inform future policy directions.

Doctoral students will pursue research projects in collaboration with a faculty mentor that seek to contribute to efforts aimed at preventing and alleviating poverty in Michigan, the nation and the world.

“This program gives PhD students an opportunity to engage in academic research that emphasizes real-world solutions and responds to the needs of communities, service providers, and policymakers,” said Poverty Solutions associate faculty director Kristin Seefeldt. “We’re thrilled to support work that will both build expertise and resources for the university community while also informing real policy and programs.”

The six GSRA awardees include:

Assessing Detroit’s “Blight Flight”: Residential Perceptions and Neighborhood Attachment in Response Demolition Programs
Lydia Wileden, PhD Candidate, Public Policy and Sociology

Demolition is a critical policy lever for cities looking to eliminate neighborhood blight. Detroit’s demolition program has been allocated nearly half a billion dollars since 2014 to address the city’s glut of vacant homes. While policymakers and researchers generally believe that blight removal is necessary to rebuild distressed neighborhoods, most existing research focuses on the impacts of blight removal for neighborhood outcomes like crime. Little research has examined how demolitions influence residents’ neighborhood perceptions and the exodus of residents known as “blight flight.” This project uses administrative data and longitudinal survey data from the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study to examine how local demolition activity impacts resident perceptions and mobility. Through descriptive and causal analysis, it seeks to understand how local blight reduction shapes neighborhood attachment. A goal of this research is to make policy recommendations to inform ongoing blight removal efforts in Detroit and across other depopulated communities.

Predicting Poverty: Advancing Measurement of Economic Well-being in Uganda through the Combined Use of Publicly Available Satellite Imagery, Representative Surveys, and Government Infrastructure Records
Peter Carroll, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science

Infrastructure deficiencies are among the main contributors to poverty in low-income countries. The effects of poverty mount when poor households lack nearby access to basic services like improved water and sanitation, electricity, transportation networks, and health clinics and schools. Governments can play a significant role in improving human development by addressing infrastructure needs, yet administrators charged with improving public goods access often lack sufficient information about which areas are in the greatest need. Recent approaches to address this information gap have used satellite imagery and other big data sources, in combination with household well-being surveys, to train machine learning models to estimate poverty. This project will employ a novel technique to improve these predictive models through the incorporation of government-collected, spatial infrastructure data, with an application in Uganda. By subsequently sharing these improved poverty estimates with government officials, the approach aims to influence the ability of administrators to better target resources to those in need.

Establishing the Relationship between Wealth Inequality, Income Inequality, and Poverty: Applying Counterfactual Historical Simulation to IRS Administrative Tax Data
Asher Dvir-Djerassi, PhD Student, Department of Sociology and Ford School of Public Policy

Over the last 30 years, increasing wealth stratification has been a significant component of increasing economic inequality and stagnant poverty in the US. Unlike the dominant explanations of stagnant poverty and rising inequality, this account centers on the role of capital income over labor income. Using IRS administrative tax records and Zillow real-estate estimates, my research team will construct the first-ever intergenerationally linked population level data of the joint distribution of income and wealth. Via the application of counterfactual historical simulations, estimates will be made of the effects of a multiplicity of forces – e.g., changes in tax regressivity and wealth exportation – on changes in wealth accumulation, capital income, and, consequently, economic inequality and poverty. Additionally, the potential effects on economic inequality and poverty of proposed policy solutions – e.g. baby bonds, an expanded child tax credit, and negative income taxation – will be simulated. These simulations will directly inform the policy discourse.

The Gendered Consequences of Crises in Eastern Kentucky
Lanora Johnson, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Working-class people in Eastern Kentucky have weathered major disruptions over the past forty years, including the decline of coal and volatility of demand for rural men’s labor, the opioid epidemic, increased white, working-class mortality, and now the coronavirus pandemic. These disruptions have magnified existing strains on gendered work and family relationships. How does gender shape how working-class people navigate local and national crises in their day-to-day lives, and how does gender shape how people in economically disadvantaged, rural communities think about what is possible and likely in their futures? This project will include interviews with at least 60 working-class men and women living in Eastern Kentucky. Insight into individuals’ gendered strategies for survival in the midst of socioeconomic disruption can yield insight into the gaps in their local safety net, and how policy might better serve their needs.

Measuring the Association Between The COVID-19 Pandemic, Material Hardship, and Work Hours and Earnings in Recreation Industry Dependent Counties
Shoshana Shapiro, PhD Candidate, Public Policy and Sociology

The goal through this research is to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on recreation industry dependent counties in the United States. The two primary research questions of this study are: 1) Is the COVID-19 pandemic associated with elevated rates of material hardship in recreation industry dependent counties as compared to the nation as a whole? and 2) Is the COVID-19 pandemic associated with depressed hours and earnings in recreation dependent counties as compared to the nation as a whole? This research will give policymakers a better understanding of the place-based impacts of the COVID recession on recreation industry dependent counties and inform place-based policymaking to support communities that were disproportionately economically impacted by the pandemic.

Intergenerational Cycles of Poverty
Davis Daumler, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology; Predoctoral Trainee, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research

This project will include two papers on intergenerational poverty. The first paper examines why early-childhood poverty generates the largest gaps in adult outcomes. The findings suggest that cumulative disadvantage processes, rather than age-specific explanations, offer a competing theory for the outsize consequences of early-life poverty. Therefore, reducing children’s cumulative rates of poverty is critical for breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. The second paper, coauthored with professor Fabian Pfeffer, examines the multigenerational associations of poverty across three generations of families. This study will be the first to establish the rate of “third-generation poverty.” By identifying the sources of multigenerational poverty, the paper has significant merit for policymakers and poverty scholars, especially for reducing poverty—and targeting people at the highest risk of experiencing multigenerational poverty.

 

 

New website answers Michiganders’ questions about expanded Child Tax Credit

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

ANN ARBOR — A new website from Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan offers step-by-step guidance for parents to ensure they receive the expanded Child Tax Credit, which is worth up to $3,600 per child, per year. 

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 increased the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 per year for children under 6 years old and $3,000 per year for children 6-17 years old. That means a single parent with a 4 year old and 7 year old would receive $6,600. The tax credit does not count as additional income that could affect eligibility for public assistance. The expanded Child Tax Credit will be paid out in regular payments rather than once a year, with monthly payments from the IRS of $250-$300 per child expected to start in July. 

The first step to receive the tax credit is to file taxes for 2020, and the tax filing deadline is extended to May 17 this year. Parents of children under 18 may be eligible to receive this money, even if they have not previously filed taxes and have low or no earnings. Visit the Child Tax Credit: What You Need to Know website to learn more about eligibility for the expanded tax credit and see answers to frequently asked questions. 

A recent survey of more than 10,000 households with low incomes, fielded by Propel in partnership with Poverty Solutions, shows the need for user-focused information on how to access the expanded Child Tax Credit. Propel runs a smartphone application used by people who receive food assistance, and less than half of those surveyed know about the Child Tax Credit and feel like they understand it. Families who are aware of it and understand it call it life changing. 

“The expanded Child Tax Credit provides significant support for families and promises to lift millions of children out of poverty. The Child Tax Credit: What You Need to Know website aims to provide clear information that parents and service providers can use to make sure families receive this money,” said Afton Branche-Wilson, assistant director of community initiatives at Poverty Solutions at U-M.

This new model for the Child Tax Credit moves the U.S. closer to a universal child allowance, similar to what is offered in the United Kingdom and Canada. A universal child allowance provides monthly cash support to all families with children, whereas the Child Tax Credit previously used in the U.S. was paid in an annual lump sum and families with no earnings were not eligible. 

“Raising kids is expensive. We know that many families face challenges covering the costs of rent, utilities, child care, and food on a monthly basis, and the flexibility that a child benefit like this provides can enable them to use the money in the ways they view as most important in raising their families,” said Poverty Solutions Faculty Director H. Luke Shaefer, who is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy and associate dean for research and policy engagement at U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 


In this episode of Michigan Minds, Luke Shaefer explains the Child Tax Credit in President Biden’s stimulus plan and how the University of Michigan is helping families navigate the process through the Poverty Solutions presidential initiative.

Shaefer is among a group of poverty scholars who have contributed significant research on the potential for an expanded child tax credit that follows the design of a child allowance to reduce child poverty rates in the U.S. Recent estimates from Columbia University’s poverty center find that this expanded Child Tax Credit will reduce child poverty by 45% overall, by 52% among Black children, by 62% among Native American children, and effectively eliminate the most extreme forms of child poverty, such as Shaefer wrote about in his book co-authored with Kathryn Edin, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

“The American Rescue Plan is the boldest vision for fighting child poverty in the U.S. in at least 50 years,” Shaefer said. “Research shows if we can intervene while kids are young, it’s going to pay dividends in terms of higher academic performance, lower engagement with the criminal justice system, and higher earnings over a lifetime.” 

However, this expansion of the Child Tax Credit is temporary; the American Rescue Plan puts it in effect for one year. Shaefer said it is important to document and analyze how the expanded Child Tax Credit affects families’ experience of material hardship in the coming year in order to inform debates about permanently offering the benefit. 

“A permanent child allowance would provide a base level of support for middle-class and low-income families to rely on, and it would create a stronger safety net for our country,” Shaefer said. “We are better off as a society if we invest in our kids.”

Related 

Child Tax Credit: What You Need to Know factsheet (also in Arabic, Bengali and Spanish)

Listening to SNAP Participants to Improve Access to Expanded Child Tax Credit (policy brief)

Coronavirus Stimulus Payments website

Material Hardship and Mental Health Following the COVID-19 Relief Bill and American Rescue Plan Act (policy brief)