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June 2011

It’s Why I Came to Detroit ….. and Now It’s Leaving!

I came to Detroit in 1975 to take on my first full-time job in the Census Bureau’s Detroit Regional Office.  While I had worked a variety of jobs throughout an extended college and graduate school “career,” I realized that once I had burned out (by choice) on my dissertation and a potential academic career, a real job was a must.  I had worked on a number of surveys throughout Ohio for the Bureau while in grad school and decided that was the path I would take.  I started with a Special Census in Sterling Heights before taking on the job of Geographic Planning Specialist.  After running administrative operations for the 1980 Census, I moved to the Information Services Department.  It was here that my love for numbers was reenergized and where I learned the power of information to make change.  My fear of public speaking was overcome and my interest in “teaching” was renewed.  I owe the last 30 years of my career to the Detroit Regional Office.

It is therefore easy to understand why I received today’s news from the U.S. Census Bureau with a heavy heart.   They announced a “realignment of their national field office structure and management reforms designed to keep pace with modern survey collection methods worldwide and reduce costs by an estimated $15 million to $18 million annually beginning in 2014. The changes are the first to the field office structure since 1961 and will result in the permanent closing of six of the agency’s 12 Regional Offices, affecting approximately 330 employees in a national field force of about 7,200.  The realignment will close Regional Offices located in Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle. The remaining six Regional Offices and their new boundaries will be located in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.”

I know that things must change and I knew back in 1975 that it was unusual for Michigan and Ohio to be served by a federal agency with an office outside of Chicago.  While I have been gone from the Census Bureau’s Detroit Office for over 20 years, leaving in 1990 to join Wayne State, I will always have strong ties because it not only created my career path but, more importantly, it BROUGHT ME TO DETROIT!

Teen Employment is Critical for Future Success!

An analysis of newly-released Census Bureau data by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) shows teen unemployment averaging above 25 percent in 25 states as of April 2011.  When the analysis is broadened to include discouraged teens that have given up looking for work, the picture worsens across all states, with jobless rates averaging above 27 percent in 23 states and the District of Columbia.  Michigan ranked 13th highest among the states at 27.9 percent.  As is the case with the overall unemployment figures, the jobless rate only considers persons actually in the labor force.  Research shows that a significant number of teens have already been frustrated by the combination of fewer jobs in the marketplace, many low skill jobs being filled by unemployed adults,  and people in their early 20s who are taking some of those better teen jobs that usually they leave alone.  These factors have resulted in a general  lack of any response to teen applications.

“The economic downturn, combined with the consequences of increases in the minimum wage, has created a labor market that’s hostile for young, inexperienced job seekers.” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute. Nationally, the teen unemployment rate stands at 24.2 percent for all teens, and 40.7 percent for black teens.

“Discarding the warnings of three-quarters of labor economists, policymakers at the state and federal level have supported wage and benefit mandates that raise the cost to hire less-experienced employees,” Saltsman continued.  “In response, employers have been forced cut back on customer service or move towards automation—meaning fewer hours and fewer opportunities for people who used to fill those jobs.”

New research from Drs. William Even (Miami University) and David Macpherson (Trinity University) shows that the consequences of wage mandates at the state and federal level have been particularly severe for young black males without a high school diploma.  They calculate that each 10 percent increase in the minimum wage has decreased employment for this group by 6.5 percent–more than twice the rate of young whites with the same education.  Unless the job market significantly rebounds or government intervention occurs, teens will continue to face tough competition into next year.

“Teens are missing out on summer jobs where they can learn valuable skills not taught in the classroom,”  Saltsman concluded.  For teens, work can be more than just a paycheck, according to a report from the Center for Labor Market Studies. Teens who work in high school are less likely to drop out before graduation. The cumulative work people do in their teens can also result in a positive impact on the employment, wages and earningsthey have in their 20s, the report found.

In addition, teens unable to get work today are more likely to have trouble finding employment in the future.  Low-income teens living in areas with fewer job opportunities have a greater likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior.  Areas with fewer jobs also tend to have higher rates of teen pregnancy as well.

Let us not forget the financial aspects of employment.  Increasingly, teens are searching for work to save for college or provide support for their unemployed parents.

On March 22, 2011, DTE Energy hosted the second annual Detroit Youth Employment Summit. The summit, titled “Homegrown Talent: Envisioning Detroit’s Future Workforce Are We Ready?” welcomed over 250 people from across Southeast Michigan, including a panel of experts, and keynote speaker U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Sponsored by DTE, Bank of America, The Skillman Foundation, New Economy Initiative, The Detroit Youth Employment Consortium, The Detroit Workforce Development Board, and City Connect Detroit, the purpose of the event was to engage key stakeholders in a discussion about how to prepare young people for the workforce, and the importance of including employers in youth workforce preparation.

Employers across the city are coming together to provide youth with job opportunities through the Detroit Youth Employment Consortium.  The task is great and there are many youth who will not be served.  Find out how you can help by contacting City Connect Detroit or the Skillman Foundation.

We Must Make Redistricting More Transparent! Join the Conversation

Allow me to  quote from the June 12, 2011 column by Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page Editor for the Free Press:

“Who will represent you in Congress, and in the state House and Senate, over the next decade? That’s none of your business. For now, at least.
Committees in the Legislature are hard at work bending boundaries, crunching numbers and looking at the balance of Democrat-Republican, rich-poor, black-white-Hispanic in all areas of Michigan.

But this important work is going on behind closed doors, with politicians not only in full command but also OK with a complete public and media blackout as they pick who their constituents will be. And while you’re in the dark, the state’s powerful special interests, without question, are peering over their shoulders, tweaking decisions in their favor. This is how it goes, over and over, decade after decade, in Michigan and lots of other states. It doesn’t matter which party is in power. Both consider the opportunity to control redistricting a political spoil, a chance to maximize partisan advantage and (just as frequently) save their own hides; incumbents of either party tend to be the biggest winners in most redistricting efforts.
The sad thing is that there was a great opportunity to do things differently this time, and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate balked.  Makes you wonder what they’re afraid the people might see.

The Legislature could have created an entire online civic experience around redistricting, something that could have gotten people involved and even educated about the importance of these decisions. The reluctance to do so looks even worse this year, because another group has been doing it successfully.  For months, the Michigan Redistricting Collaborative has been running a public competition that gives people the information and the tools to learn about the process and draw their own maps.

Using pretty sophisticated online software, the collaborative asked ordinary citizens to make the kinds of choices that legislators want to keep to themselves. The group has picked finalists for congressional, state House and state Senate maps. Winners, based on votes registered on the Web site, will be announced later this month — right around the time the Legislature may finally start publicizing its maps.  (You can take a look at the winning maps, and still draw your own, at”

Data Driven Detroit has been a partner in this effort since its inception because it is a true example of our mission – to provide accessible high-quality information and analysis to drive informed decision-making that will strengthen communities in Southeast Michigan.  Accessibility is the key – an open, democratic process that shares data with all entities.

It is not too late to see where things stand and to get your voice heard.  You are invited to join your Metro Detroit colleagues on June 16th for a discussion that will expand your knowledge about the Michigan redistricting process and potential problems with how legislative district boundaries are chosen. You’ll also have an opportunity to give input on potential approaches to reforming the current process. We need to bring more transparency and public input to redistricting in Michigan. The event is Thursday, June 16th at 6PM at Christ the King Parish (20800 Grand River Ave, Detroit). 
This is a wonderful opportunity to get involved before the lines are “set in stone.”

Married Households No Longer Rule the Roost!

No blog about marriage can feature a more charismatic illustration that the newly married royals – unless it was that image of two young hippy-looking folks named Jody and Kurt, standing in front of the Cincinnati Zoo gorillas some 33 years ago. [that image is only available by special request.] While the new royals did live together, off and on, over a number of years, they did choose marriage in the end.

Data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau shows married couples have found themselves in a new position: They’re no longer the majority. It’s a trend that’s been creeping along for decades, but in the 2010 Census, married couples represent 48 percent of all households. That’s down from 52 percent in the last Census and less than the majority for the first time in U.S. history.

The flip in the 2010 Census happened in 32 states, Michigan being one. In fact, Michigan almost mirrored the national average as married couples dropped from 51.4 percent of all households in 2000 to 48.0 percent in 2010. In another seven states, less than 51 percent of households were comprised of married couples.

The reason for this change, according to Portland State University demographer Charles Rynerson, is twofold: The fast-growing older population is more likely to be divorced or widowed later in life, resulting in more single person households (persons 65 years and over living alone represented 10.2% of Michigan households in 2010, up from 9.4% ten years earlier), and 20-somethings are putting off their nuptials for longer stretches. In fact, studies show that the age of first marriage is at record highs, increasing to 28.2 for men and 26.1 for women in 2010. Fears of not being able to hang onto a job, a widening labor market for women and a shift away from having kids at a young age have all proved to be a disincentive for people in their 20s and early 30s to join the ranks of the married.

To reflect the changing attitudes on marriage, the Census Bureau has broadened the definition of family this year to include unmarried couples, such as same-sex partners, as well as foster children who are not related by blood or adoption. And attitudes on marriage are changing, too. About 39 percent of Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research Center study published in November, up from 28 percent in 1978.

While each of our Southeast Michigan counties experienced a decrease in the married-couple share of households, great variations exist. The most married county is Livingston (also most suburban/rural), with a 63 percent share (down from 68.5 percent), while the least married is Wayne (the most urban) at 37.4 percent (down from 40.7%). While the share in all counties declined, only Macomb experienced the change from a majority (54.3% in 2000) to a minority (49.7% in 2000). Oakland County married couples barely held on to their majority, falling from 54.2 to 50.7 percent, while Washtenaw County, heavily influenced by its large student population, showed the smallest change, dropping from 46.4 to 44.3 percent.

While we can expect this trend to continue when the results of the 2020 Census are released, the Metzger family will continue to try and keep Oakland County’s numbers up by staying married in one case and moving both children from single to married status over the summer.