US Census Bureau poverty statistics: U-M experts can discuss

September 11, 2023
Unhappy confused woman with empty wallet think of monthly payment. Frustrated female distressed with bills and taxes pay suffer from financial crisis or debt. Bankruptcy. Vector illustration. Image credit: Aleksei Morozov, iStock


University of Michigan faculty are available to discuss the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 report on poverty and income statistics, to be released Sept. 12.

The official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6%, with 37.9 mil­lion people in poverty.

H. Luke Shaefer is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the Ford School of Public Policy, professor at the School of Social Work and faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research. He also is director of Poverty Solutions, a universitywide presidential initiative that aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research. He can discuss the measurement of poverty and alternative metrics for measuring hardship. He co-authored an analysis of material hardship levels among U.S. households during the pandemic.

Contact: [email protected]

Kate Bauer, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at the School of Public Health, can share her expertise and research into the positive effects of food assistance programs on poverty alleviation.

She is watching the impact of Michigan’s new universal free meals for all public school students. The program, which is funded by $160 million from the state, began providing free breakfast and lunch this year to all students, regardless of income level. At least six other states also began funding universal meals for all programs this school year.

“I think there are two different ways to think about the intersection of poverty and nutrition promotion,” Bauer said. “The first is that in addition to having proven positive effects on child nutrition, food assistance programs—like school meals—reduce poverty generally, which has widespread benefits for families. The second is that poverty reduction programs—like the child tax credit—have direct positive influences on children’s nutrition. It’s been shown that when low-income families are provided more cash assistance, they use it to buy healthier foods for their kids.”

Contact: [email protected]

Roshanak Mehdipanah is an associate professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health and director of U-M’s Housing Solutions for Health Equity. She can discuss connections between housing instability and health, health equity gaps and urban health, and the intersections with other determinants of health. Her recent research using U.S. Census data showed how rent and mortgage payments were linked to worse health outcomes during the early stages of the pandemic.

“The current state of housing in the U.S. reflects a challenging reality where there is a persistent struggle for affordable housing, and the current housing stock is aging contributing to a rise in poor quality housing,” Mehdipanah said. “It is no surprise that we are seeing an increase in housing inequalities across the nation.”

Contact: [email protected]

Trina Shanks is the Harold R. Johnson Collegiate Professor of Social Work, director of the Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being and faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research. She conducts research on the impact of poverty and wealth on child well-being, asset-building policy and practice across the life cycle, and community and economic development.

Contact: [email protected]