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Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility

Despite some signs of an economic resurgence in Detroit, city residents still face systemic challenges rooted in a history of racial discrimination and segregation.

  • Detroit has a poverty rate of roughly 30%, nearly three times higher than the national average.
  • In Detroit, the child poverty rate is even higher, at more than 43%.
  • Though Detroit experienced a strong economic recovery after the Great Recession, the city’s unemployment rate remained above the national average in 2021, and only 55% of working-age adults are participating in the labor force.

The Partnership on Economic Mobility between Poverty Solutions and the City of Detroit is a joint effort to identify and implement concrete, evidence-based strategies that significantly improve economic opportunity and reduce poverty in Detroit.

Partnership projects pair staff and U-M scholars with the leadership of city departments and community-based organizations, to conduct action-based research that informs program and policy change, and galvanizes collective action on critical economic mobility issues.

U-M partners with the City to serve four critical roles:

  • Advise city officials on evidence-based strategies to enhance economic mobility,
  • Provide technical support and data analysis in the implementation of mobility initiatives,
  • Evaluate city initiatives to measure both short and long-term impacts on economic mobility, and
  • Offer evidence-based policy analysis at the city, state, and federal level.

We also partner with a broad network of community-based organizations across the city, to identify and conduct research on the most intractable challenges faced by Detroit residents, in the hopes of providing the knowledge needed to help solve those challenges.  Learn more about community engagement projects in Detroit.


Analyzing the long-term impacts of foreclosure and property speculation
Poverty Solutions supported research that highlighted the connection between Detroit’s long-lasting mortgage and tax foreclosure crises, property speculation, high rates of eviction, and large numbers of demolitions. The research helped contribute to the City’s efforts to file a lawsuit against a number of Detroit’s most notorious property speculators.

Stopping the Eviction Machine in Detroit

Analyzing the scale of home repair needs in Detroit
The state of Detroit’s housing stock has long stood as a challenge for Detroiters with limited income, threatening long-term housing stability. Poverty Solutions estimated the overall home repair need in Detroit, analyzed the state of current home repair programs, and recommended potential strategies to deliver more home repair resources to Detroit residents. 

A Decent Home: The Status of Home Repair in Detroit

Evaluation of the Make it Home Repair program
Several ongoing initiatives are seeking to provide low-cost pathways to homeownership for low-income Detroit households. However, many homes are in need of significant repair, threatening long-term housing stability. Poverty Solutions evaluated a flexible, low-cost home repair program to help new homeowners address emergency repairs, to improve long-term stability.

Reinforcing Low-income Homeownership through Home Repair: Evaluation of the Make It Home Repair Program

Evaluating eviction prevention efforts in Detroit
The United Way of Southeastern Michigan is partnering with JP Morgan Chase, the Detroit Housing Commission, and the United Community Housing Coalition, to pilot an effort to prevent rental evictions by intervening with vulnerable households prior to an eviction filing. Poverty Solutions is evaluating the initiative. 

Explore our all of our work on Affordable Housing and Homelessness


Workforce research and data analysis
Poverty Solutions serves as the data and research partner for the City of Detroit’s workforce board, providing real-time analysis to help inform the City’s strategy to increase employment and earnings for Detroit residents.

The Detroit Labor Market: Recent Trends, Current Realities

Understanding Job (Mis)Match: Jobs and Jobseekers in Detroit

Seeking bold solutions to boost employment and well-being in Detroit
Poverty Solutions has worked with national experts and local leaders to raise the profile of transitional work experiences as a strategy to re-engage Detroit’s labor force non-participants.

Toward a Comprehensive, Inclusive, and Equitable Subsidized Employment Initiative In Detroit

Work and Opportunity in Detroit: The case for a bold subsidized employment initiative

Health & Well-being

Evaluating the Community Health Corps initiative
The City of Detroit is launching a new initiative called the Community Health Corps, which connects community health workers to vulnerable Detroit residents, to connect them with a range of support services. Poverty Solutions is evaluating the initiative.

Investing in Us
Poverty Solutions researchers reviewed over 10 years of community-level reports, city planning efforts, and newspaper articles that captured the voices of Detroit residents, in an effort to better understand Detroiters’ vision for economic mobility and well-being in their city, their priorities for change, and how those priorities have shifted or remained constant over the past decade. The report will serve as a foundation from which we will pursue strategic policies and programs that respond to resident priorities outlined in the report.

Investing in Us

The financial well-being of Detroit residents
In order to promote economic mobility in Detroit, we must first understand the financial barriers faced by its residents, which often stem from systemic and racialized policy failures. In partnership with the United Way of Southeast Michigan, Poverty Solutions compiled data that outlines what we know about the financial well-being of Detroit residents, and recommends strategies for enhancing economic mobility.

The Financial Well-being of Detroit Residents: What do we know?


Brightmoor Quality Initiative Evaluation
The Fisher Foundation has worked over the past decade to build a system of support for the early education and care ecosystem within the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit. The aim of this study is to evaluate the Fisher Foundation’s efforts from the past decade. Information will be collected on what worked and what else is needed within Brightmoor early childhood education programs. Additionally, Poverty Solutions will assess both the process and the outcomes from the Brightmoor Quality Initiative activities while looking at the overall capacity and quality of early care/education in Brightmoor, as well as education outcomes in K-8 schools serving Brightmoor students. 

313Reads is a collective impact coalition dedicated to increasing access to literacy support for young children in Detroit, with the goal of every child reading at grade level by grade three. The coalition does this by working with citywide partners while focusing on literacy access, equity, and justice. 313Reads is the Detroit chapter of the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and the coalition has partnerships ranging from local to national. 313Reads does not work directly with families; instead, it is the organizing body that coordinates collective impact efforts among organizations based on democratic decision making.

313Reads operates with the basic understanding that Detroit children, families, community members, and community organizations are brilliant and can do anything when they have access to high quality opportunities, resources, and support. The unacceptable literacy inequities that impact Detroit children are the product of systems that reproduce inequitable distributions of opportunities, resources, and supports. The collective impact network is committed to addressing systemic inequities through the levers of Early Language and Literacy, Summer and Out-of-School Time Learning, and Early Childhood Enrollment and Attendance. Poverty Solutions serves as the evaluation and data partner for this collective impact effort.

Detroit Metro Area Communities Study

As Detroit continues to evolve, residents’ opinions need to be part of the conversation about the city’s future. Since 2016, University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) has used a representative city-wide survey to help bridge the gap between Detroit officials and residents whose voices may not always be heard in public discussions. Insights from each wave of the survey can inform city policies and community programming to produce better outcomes for Detroit residents. DMACS is supported by a partnership between Poverty Solutions and the Population Studies Center at U-M. 

Learn more about DMACS

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Poverty Solutions invites interested city staff, U-M faculty, and others to submit questions or opportunities for collaborative research or data analysis projects. Any idea is welcome, so long as it aligns with our collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and promote economic mobility in Detroit.