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


Back to faculty research

Exploration of Jobs for Michigan Graduates: Trauma as a Barrier to Economic and Labor Market Opportunity

The project: Within the Midwest, Michigan has the highest rate of youth disconnected from the educational and work opportunities necessary for adult well-being. Trauma may well be a crucial player in this disconnect, contributing to later experiences of poverty. New research has shed light on the potential of trauma-informed care (TIC) and Restorative Practices (RP) to improve opportunities not only in mental health, but in youth economic development programs as well. This study provided data analysis toward understanding trauma’s impact on high school graduation and youth’s economic well-being and labor market participation.

The process: Researchers analyzed data for Detroit Jobs for Michigan Graduates programs that track intake and graduating statistics like testing scores, employment, post-secondary education and earnings. Researchers reviewed data for more than 1,900 young people (ages 13 to 20+) who were involved in 13 Detroit Jobs for Michigan Graduates program in 2014 to 2019. They assessed the number and types of barriers the young people faced ranging from academic to family, employment, criminal justice, basic needs, and various types of trauma in order to determine the impact of trauma on later-life successes.

Results: Youth who had barriers aligned with trauma were more likely to experience challenges with remaining connected to school and greater barriers to achieving their educational and employment goals. Youth with exposure to trauma or toxic stress were significantly less likely to achieve graduation or employment following their participation in the Jobs for Michigan Graduates program. Notably, youth with larger families, in general, were less likely to experience trauma exposure when compared to youth with smaller support groups.

Although all youth enrolled in Jobs for Michigan Graduates have barriers to graduation or employment and most live in poverty, youth with trauma / toxic stress barriers were significantly less likely to achieve their work and school goals. This highlights the importance of understanding how trauma creates disconnection, especially for youth, and demonstrates that interventions for poverty and inequality require an understanding and awareness of trauma. 

Jessica K. Camp, U-M Dearborn Department of Health and Human Services
Tracy S. Hall, U-M Dearborn Office of Metropolitan Impact