Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility

Despite the recent economic recovery in Detroit, there remain systemic challenges rooted in a history of racial discrimination and segregation.

  • Detroit has a poverty rate nearly three times higher than the national average—roughly 30%.
  • In Detroit, the child poverty rate is even higher, at more than 43%.
  • Many families following the current path our nation has laid out for upward mobility are making no headway and, in too many cases, losing ground with each passing year.*

The Partnership on Economic Mobility (PDF) 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 dozens of U-M experts with the leadership of city departments including health, workforce, housing and revitalization, jobs and economy, and police.

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
  • Offer evidence-based policy analysis at the city, state, and federal level

A major part of Poverty Solutions’ role is to help the city define and analyze short- and long-term metrics of economic mobility and to provide data for decision making. This includes aggregating and analyzing public information, and fielding new surveys to evaluate pilot initiatives aimed to improve Detroiters’ well-being. Analysis can be tailored to inform specific workforce development, housing, health, and transportation efforts.

The all-encompassing partnership draws in the departments of health, workforce, housing and revitalization, and others in the city and a number of units at U-M including the School of Public Health, Ford School of Public Policy, School of Social Work, Michigan Medicine, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Michigan Engineering/Urban Collaboratory, the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, Ross School of Business, and the Institute for Social Research.


Evaluation of the Right of First Refusal (RoR) program. U-M faculty are partnering with the City of Detroit and Quicken Loans/Rock Ventures on a multi-year evaluation of the Right of First Refusal program, which provides a pathway for low-income residents to purchase their homes following tax foreclosure.

Preserving Affordable Housing in Detroit. U-M faculty are working with a Detroit Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) task force to identify strategies for maintaining affordability.

Improving the Poverty Tax Exemption. Researchers studied the city’s Homeowner’s Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP), and identified application barriers for this program.

Evaluation of a Collective Impact Strategy for Munger Leads when Munger Reads program. Researchers are working with a range of partners to evaluate an early literacy collective impact model in Southwest Detroit, focused on improving kindergarten readiness and third grade reading.

DESC Workforce Research and Data Analysis. Poverty Solutions worked with the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce to provide research and data analysis in support of the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation’s workforce development efforts.

Outcome Analysis for Workforce Training Providers. Poverty Solutions is helping the DESC to automate the analysis of employment outcomes for individuals trained by one of the city’s preferred providers.

Community Health Workers. U-M faculty researchers and the Health Department teamed up to pilot a new model for employing community health workers in the Cody Rouge neighborhood.

Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study. U-M partners with city departments and community organizations to employ a new survey model leveraging state-of-the-art methods to provide insights across the entire city and in individual neighborhoods and help ensure that diverse voices are incorporated into decision-making.


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.

Submit an idea.