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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Rick Haglund
Source: Special to Michigan News

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

Luke Shaefer

Luke Shaefer, Director of Poverty Solutions at U-M

What was the impetus for creating Poverty Solutions?

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

What have been some of those partnerships?

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

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

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

Read the full article via U-M Detroit >

April Jobs Report: Black women’s employment rate at 22-year high

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter

In April, U.S. total nonfarm employment rose by 253,000 jobs, which exceeded expectations as the economy continued to expand.. However, revisions to data from the past two months subtracted 149,000 jobs, which is indicative of a labor market that is slowing down. The unemployment rate ticked down to 3.4%, its lowest in over 50 years. Labor force participation and the employment rate were both stable, however they have both been rising steadily, albeit slowly, over the year. Over the past year, the employment rate has risen by 0.5 percentage point and the number of employed people has increased by 3 million.

“The labor market remains strong and the continued growth has helped to reduce stubborn racial gaps in employment and unemployment. The unemployment rate among Black workers is the lowest on record and the employment rate of Black women is the highest it has been since the late 1990s,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

1. Broad gains were made across all major industries in April.

Most industries are continuing to add jobs faster than in the two years prior to the pandemic. In April, the only sectors to add fewer jobs than their pre-pandemic average were construction and information services. Growth continues to be largest in education and health services, which was slow to grow out of the pandemic.

2. Large metro areas have struggled to get employment back to pre-pandemic levels

Nine of the top 20 metro areas have lost employment relative to the beginning of the pandemic, while 11 have grown. Dallas, Tampa, and Phoenix have seen employment grow the fastest since the pandemic, with employment substantially higher in both cities compared to the start of the pandemic. These three cities also had the fastest population growth in the decade prior to the pandemic. The three largest cities prior to the pandemic–New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago–have all had net declines in jobs since the pandemic. Los Angeles has had the largest loss of jobs, with 4%fewer jobs in March compared to the start of the pandemic. Los Angeles and Chicago also had the slowest growth among top 10 large cities in the decade prior to the pandemic. Detroit and Baltimore, both cities that currently have fewer jobs than at the start of the pandemic, had lost population in the decade prior to the pandemic. Taken together, the pandemic appears to have magnified population shifts that were underway prior to the pandemic.

3. Labor force participation rates are up across the board for women over the past 12 months.

Women’s labor force participation is up over the year, by 0.6 percentage point and reflects growth among women of all ages and education levels. The biggest growth occurred among women of color, with Hispanic women’s labor force participation rate rising 2.1 percentage points and Black women’s labor force participation rising 2.2 percentage points over the year. Gains by educational attainment appear smaller overall, with the largest gains occurring among women with less education.

In contrast with women, men’s labor force participation rates rose only among White men, with declines occurring among Black and Hispanic men. The declines were concentrated among men with the least education, with labor force participation rates falling by a percentage point among those with only a high school degree.

4. Labor force participation rates are converging to pre-pandemic trends.

The challenge with predicting labor force participation growth is that the pandemic disrupted a five-year trend of rapid growth that may not have continued even if the pandemic had not occurred. The upward trend in labor force participation between 2015 and the start of the pandemic reflected a five-year period of strong growth for women and moderate growth for men. The strong growth saw prime-age women’s labor force participation rate recover to highs last seen in the late 1990s. While prime-age men’s labor force participation rates remained low by historical standards, it was the longest sustained period of increase since the 1950s.

The pandemic interrupted this growth. Over the past few years, it was impossible to know whether prime-age labor force participation would close the gap with this previous trend. Over the past year, however, it has become clear that prime-age women and men are converging not to their old participation rates, but to the rate predicted by the trend growth that began in 2015.

5. Black women’s employment rates are at a 22-year high.

Over the past year, Black women’s employment rate has risen 2.5 percentage points, bringing it to 61.1%. In February 2020, Black women’s employment rate was 60.8%after having risen steadily since 2011. Black women were one of the hardest hit groups during the pandemic with higher rates of unemployment, the highest rates of death from COVID-19, and high rates of employment in essential services during the pandemic.

And yet, across just about every measure, Black women have more than fully rebounded. Black women’s labor force participation rate is up 2.2 percentage points over the past year, and in April, it was the same as February 2020. Their unemployment rate in April was 4.2%, a record low. While it remains higher than the 2.8 % among White women, the gap between the two has shrunk substantially over the year.

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.

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

Contact: Sarah Schuch,, 810-280-7392

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about Rx Kids, visit

Release courtesy of the Mott Foundation

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

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis is conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.

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


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

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

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

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

Detroiters’ views on reparations connected to perception of racial wealth gap, other inequality

Contact: Lauren Slagter,

DETROIT — Detroiters’ perceptions of the racial wealth gap, the legacy of slavery and other forms of racial inequity are strongly connected to their support for reparations and policies that address racial inequity.

Overall, 63% of Detroit residents support some form of reparations, and 70% say addressing racial inequality should be a high policy priority for elected officials, according to a new analysis of survey findings from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study and the Center for Racial Justice, with support from Poverty Solutions.

Detroit voters passed a ballot measure in 2021 to create a reparations task force to recommend housing and economic development programs for Black residents, and in February, the Detroit City Council appointed 13 people to the task force. Detroit is one of the cities where U-M’s Center for Social Solutions is learning from community-based reparations efforts as part of the national Crafting Democratic Futures project.

RelatedCandidate support for reparations would mobilize Detroit voters

Chart shows Detroiters' views on inequity“There is a strong link between awareness of racial inequality and support for reparative policies,” said Erykah Benson, U-M doctoral student in sociology and research fellow at the Center for Racial Justice, who analyzed the survey results. “We’re in a moment of national debate about how to think about, teach and resolve historical and contemporary injustices. How we collectively remember and understand our history shapes how we think about appropriate solutions for generational and ongoing injustices.”

In 2019, the median white household in the United States had about eight times the wealth of the median Black household—$184,000 compared to $23,000, respectively (wealth refers to the amount a household owns, minus what they owe). The racial gap in household income also is substantial: The median Black household had an annual income of about $46,000 in 2020 compared to $75,000 for white households.

Among the 73% of Detroiters who believe the average Black person is worse off than the average white person in terms of income and wealth, 71% support reparations and 75% say policies that address racial inequality should be a high priority. Among the 14% of Detroiters who believe the average Black person is equally well off as the average white person, 38% support reparations.

Detroiters who agree the legacy of slavery and discrimination continues to affect Black Americans today are more likely to support reparations (73%) compared to those who disagree with this statement (30%), according to the survey findings.

“Nearly 8 in 10 Detroiters believe America’s history of slavery and discrimination continues to impact the experiences and opportunities of Black Americans today. Understanding how Detroiters think about historical and current discrimination has important implications for the national discussion about reparations,” said Jasmine Simington, a joint doctoral candidate in public policy and sociology at U-M and a research fellow at the Center for Racial Justice, who contributed to the survey analysis.

The survey showed opposition to reparations is not necessarily the same as opposition to addressing racial inequality. Thirteen percent of Detroiters oppose reparations, yet 41% of those who oppose reparations still say addressing racial inequality should be a high policy priority for elected officials.

The survey was fielded between June 16 and Aug. 26, 2022, and captures the views of a representative sample of 2,339 Detroit residents. Results were weighted to reflect the population of the city of Detroit.


February Jobs Report: Job Growth Shows No Signs of Slowing

Analysis by Betsey Stevenson and Benny Docter 

Contact: Benny Docter,
Jeff Karoub,

The U.S. labor market grew by 311,000 jobs in February. Unemployment ticked up to 3.6%, while the number of employed expanded and the labor force participation rate also ticked up. Since October 2022, labor force participation has expanded slowly but steadily from 62.2% to 62.5%. This has brought 1.6 million additional people into the labor force over the past four months, allowing employers to continue to hire at rapid rates despite the historically low unemployment rate. 

While many anticipated that job growth would slow, so far it shows no signs of slowing. Job growth over the past three months has averaged 351,000 jobs per month, similar to the six-month average of 336,000 and the 12-month average of 362,000. While job growth is clearly not accelerating, it also shows no signs of slowing. The question is whether job growth of this pace can be sustained until labor force participation fully recovers. While many are concerned that the labor market is too tight, threatening to fuel further inflation, that view is based on the unemployment rate. Today’s wage data showed that wage growth has slowed substantially over the past few months, with annualized hourly wage growth of only 2.9% in February. 

The question on everyone’s mind: Is the labor market too tight, are we operating above potential? The answer depends on whether you think we can recover from the negative labor supply shock that was the pandemic and return to pre-pandemic labor force participation rates. Recent growth in the labor force participation rate shows that continued recovery is possible,” said Betsey Stevenson, economist at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 

Labor force participation has risen steadily since November 2022, driven largely by women and people of color.

In each month from November 2022 through February 2023 labor supply rose, although at a small enough increase that no individual month was substantial enough to declare a clearly rising labor force participation rate. Stepping back and looking over the entire period shows a clear and significant increase. The overall labor force participation rate rose from 62.2% in November 2022 to 62.5%in February, an increase of 1.6 million people. This marks a high point for labor force participation since the pandemic began. 

Over this time period, women’s labor force participation rose from 56.5% to 57.2%, hitting a post-pandemic high, while the participation rate for men ticked down from 68.1% to 68%. Looking over a longer horizon, men’s labor force participation has been largely stagnant since the beginning of 2022 and is slightly lower than the post-pandemic high of 68.2% seen in March 2022. While women’s labor force participation showed weakening in the fall of 2022, today’s rate of 57.2% shows growth that has brought 816,000 more women into the labor force compared to what would have happened with the labor force participation rate of a year ago. While both men and women have yet to return to their pre-pandemic labor force participation rates, women have narrowed the gap more. Among prime age women – those ages 25 to 54 – women’s labor force participation is at a new all-time high, having fully recovered and continued to grow. In contrast, the labor force participation rate of prime age men remains below pre-pandemic rates. 

There are also large racial gaps in the expansion of labor supply, with labor supply growing the most among Black and Hispanic workers. The labor force participation rate of Hispanic adults increased from 65.7% in November 2022 to 66.8%in February and it rose from 62.3% to 63.4% among Black adults. The labor force participation rate among Hispanic workers has largely stagnated over the last year. While it is at a post-pandemic high, it remains below its pre-pandemic rate. In contrast, the labor force participation rate among Black workers is up over a full percentage point over the last year and is now higher than it was prior to the pandemic.  

Labor force participation rates are substantially lower for white adults following the pandemic.

The labor force participation rate of white adults rose from 61.8% to 62.1%, but their labor force participation rate remains slightly below the post-pandemic high reached in March 2022 and equal to the rate a year ago. The labor force participation rate among white workers remains more than a percentage point below its pre-pandemic rate. While white workers were the least likely to lose work in the early stages of the pandemic, they have been less likely to return to the labor market, with a smaller rebound in 2020 and very little growth since then. 

Women were slower to recover jobs but they are now adding jobs faster than men.

In February 2020, women held half of all non-farm payroll jobs. By April 2020, that share had fallen to 49.3%as women had lost 11.9 million jobs, while men had lost 10 million. Women regained slightly more jobs than men by the end of 2020, enough to narrow but not close the gap. 

Taking a look at the three years since the pandemic began, women lost 400,000 jobs a month on average in the first year. By the second year, women were gaining 300,000 jobs a month. That growth slowed in the third year to 197,000 jobs a month. For men, the job loss was smaller in the first year, averaging 335,000 jobs per month. Male job growth was faster in the second year, averaging 322,000 thousand. As a result, by February 2022, women held 49.7%of jobs, similar to their share in February 2021. 

Male job growth slowed much more than job growth for women in the third year, with 165,000 jobs held by men added per month. In February 2023, monthly job growth was fairly evenly split between men and women, and women’s share of jobs overall was 49.8%.

One explanation for this pattern is that female-dominated occupations were the slowest to recover and grow out of the pandemic. As a result, women looking for jobs after the pandemic have had to look across a wider set of industries.

Women have entered previously male-dominated occupations in higher numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic women lost more jobs than men both because the industries they are most likely to work in lost the most jobs and they lost the most jobs in any given industry. The result was that education and health services became slightly less female dominated as did leisure and hospitality. Since then, more women have been hired back than men, but the shares of women in these occupations remain lower than prior to the pandemic.  

In male-dominated occupations like information, construction, manufacturing, and transportation and warehousing, women’s job growth has substantially outpaced their share of jobs. The result is that women’s share of jobs has grown in these male-dominated occupations. These shifts illustrate how women’s labor force participation is still evolving, as women have been willing to shift to new occupations as market conditions shifted away from services toward goods.  

Non-farm payrolls show overall that women’s recovery and growth has been slower than that of men. This pattern is a historical anomaly, as previous recessions have seen women’s jobs recover more quickly. However, in previous recessions, job growth in female-dominated occupations like education and health services led the recovery. As job growth shifts from male-dominated occupations to female-dominated occupations, whether employers find it easy to hire will ultimately depend on whether women’s labor force participation continues to grow.

Women have gained jobs in construction at three times their share of the industry.

Since the start of the pandemic, women have gained a disproportionate share of construction jobs, raising their share of jobs from the very small 13.1%to the not-quite-as-small 14.1 %.

The recently passed CHIPS Act requires a lot of new construction workers. Some have worried that it will simply be impossible to hire all the construction workers needed for the planned projects. For example, Catherine Rampell recently pointed out that projects in Ohio will require more construction workers than are available in all of Ohio. Where are these workers going to come from? 

One answer is women. Women have been gaining jobs in construction at three times their share of the industry. Similarly, women have been gaining jobs in manufacturing at almost two times their share of the industry. 

Perhaps it’s no wonder that states like Oregon have started bundling child care with apprenticeship programs. They want to train women, and women need child care to be able to take some of these positions. More expansively, the CHIPS program requires those looking to access more than $150 million in subsidies to provide child care to their workers

Child care programs will help bring more women into construction and manufacturing, but it is worth noting that research shows white men are the most likely to benefit from such child care subsidies. This research highlights the fact that in most families with kids, all parents are attempting to work and a lack of child care can create employment problems for men and women.

About this analysis

The University of Michigan’s monthly Rapid Insights labor market analysis is conducted by Betsey Stevenson, economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and Benny Docter, senior data and policy analyst at Poverty Solutions. The project is funded by the Robin Hood Foundation, with support from the Ford School and Poverty Solutions.

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

Jared Wadley,

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

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

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

Afton Branche-Wilson

Afton Branche-Wilson

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

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

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

What will be the domino effect from all of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


First-ever look at child, youth homelessness data at county, congressional district levels reveals impact of pandemic

Contact: Alisha Qiu, (734) 934-2481,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection and Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan today released searchable data profiles that make available—for the first time—data on child and youth homelessness at the county and congressional district levels, as well as the national, state, and school district levels.

The profiles raise awareness of the scale and impact of homelessness on children and youth and underscore the need for action to meet their needs.

“As a new session of Congress begins, and many state legislative sessions commence, these data profiles will help shine a light on a hidden population of vulnerable children and youth,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection. “We hope policymakers and practitioners alike use the profiles to understand gaps in support and to take action to prevent today’s homeless children and youth from becoming tomorrow’s homeless adults.”

The county, congressional district, and school district profiles include the following data:

  • The numbers of PreK-12 children and youth identified as experiencing homelessness and enrolled in school in the 2020-2021 school year, including the number of students experiencing homelessness as a percentage of all students and the percent of school-aged children living in poverty.
  • The living situation of children and youth when they were first identified as homeless.
  • Status as English learner, special education student, migrant, and/or unaccompanied youth (youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian).
  • Race/ethnicity of identified children and youth experiencing homelessness.
  • The number/percent of school districts that received dedicated federal funding to support children and youth experiencing homelessness (county/congressional district); or federal funding subgrant status (school district).

The state and national profiles include these additional data elements:

  • Estimates of children under age 6 experiencing homelessness.
  • Number/percent of young children experiencing homelessness enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start.
  • High school graduation rates.
  • The number of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) over the past three years.
  • The number of school districts that received one-time COVID-19 relief funds (known as the American Rescue Plan – Homeless Children and Youth funds), including as a percentage of all school districts.

Jennifer Erb-Downward

“One of the important elements of the data profiles is that they allow communities to explore where under-identification of children experiencing homelessness may be taking place. We know that under-identification is widespread and that it negatively impacts children, depriving them of critical support. With these data, communities can change this long-standing issue,” said Jennifer Erb-Downward, director of housing stability programs and policy initiatives at U-M’s Poverty Solutions.

The data profiles are accompanied by two new analyses:

  • An analysis of patterns of under-identification among school districts that do and do not receive dedicated funding to serve children and youth experiencing homelessness, including rural school districts and public charter schools. The analysis reveals that the likelihood of under-identification is much higher in school districts without dedicated funding, and that the number of school districts receiving dedicated homeless education funding more than doubled as a result of a bipartisan amendment to the American Rescue Plan Act, now reaching over half of all school districts.
  • An analysis of recent trends in child and youth homelessness that show the impact of the pandemic, including a disproportionate decline in enrollment and increase in chronic absenteeism.

The child and youth homelessness data profiles will be updated in Fall 2023 to incorporate 2021-2022 data, include more early childhood data, and show trends over time.