Friday, February 20, 2015

A tale of two West Michigans?

West Michigan likes to tout itself as leading the state's recovery behind a variety of select economic data. Here's a few examples of that horn-blowing:
West Michigan confidence is now back to levels seen during the 1990s. The regional economy is expected to continue to grow in 2015, but the rate of this increase is also expected to slow down.
West Michigan’s appetite for industrial real estate is starting to generate new construction after most of the existing usable space has been filled...
West Michigan’s economy is the fifth fastest-growing economy in the U.S....
Since this is my hometown area, I see this as great news and hope that it continues.

But apparently, according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book for Kent County, a substantial part of the community hasn't gotten the memo and may not be feeling the recovery at all.

Click to enlarge or go to the link, above


You have to ask yourself, how can this area be considered a leader in a rebounding economy if it...
  • has a child poverty rate that has gotten worse at a rate faster than the state average, growing by 40% and only ranking 30th best out of 82 counties?
  • continues to have a high infant mortality rate ranking close to the middle of 49 counties where data was available?
  • is seeing substantial growth in child abuse exceeding the state rate for investigated families and confirmed victims? Child abuse is often an outgrowth of the stress of joblessness and trying to make ends meet in the home.
Could a possible explanation be divined from the growing economic and housing segregation, especially in the urban areas of Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood?
A new study of home mortgage activity concludes that West Michigan is the nation’s most “racially uneven” housing market when it comes to helping African Americans and Hispanics recover from the housing bust.
There's more to the story, I'm sure, but I'll leave you to decide, or at least those of you who have taken your heads out of the sand long enough to read this post along with the embedded links.