Because of unacceptable player behavior off the field, the National Football League has been all over the news. To the league’s credit, though, they’ve been partners with the United Way organization for more than forty years.
Our great state is in the center of Big Ten Country. For non-sports
enthusiasts, the Big Ten Conference now has 14 schools, and one of the
recent additions is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
I recently discovered that Rutgers was in Michigan this summer for
something other than a football game. They conducted a study for the
Michigan Association of United Ways. Called ALICE (Asset Limited, Income
Constrained, Employed), the study dealt with “the population of
individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the
basic necessities of housing, food, child care, and transportation.”
It found that 40 percent of our state’s population falls into that
category. In other words, nearly half of Michigan’s population struggles
to make ends meet. I think you’ll agree it’s a sad state of affairs
when so many Michigan households can’t afford basic needs as defined by
As someone that enjoys surveys, studies and numbers, I found ALICE to be
as thorough and detailed as any I have ever reviewed. It was almost to
the point of being overwhelming.
What hourly wage is needed to make life in Michigan affordable? It
varies from county to county, but overall for a family of four (2
adults/2 children), the magic number seems to be just over $25, a number
easier to attain if more than one family member works.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 63 percent of our jobs pay
less than $20 per hour, with most of them in the $10 to $15 per hour
range. And that number is based on a full-time workweek, even as we are
evolving into a nation of part-time workers.
In other words, Michigan is an expensive place to reside, while at the
same time we are in need of higher paying full-time jobs. I suspect the
high cost of living has driven a number of higher end households and
businesses to relocate out of Michigan. And that’s on top of the many
Michiganders who left looking for jobs during the economic downturn.
ALICE found our population to be very diverse, quite typical in this
ever-changing world. Contrarily, it seems the phrase “a typical family
of four” is becoming about as rare as a company that still provides a
To Michigan’s credit, we were one of the first states to undertake this
thorough analysis through United Way and Rutgers University. In many
ways, the findings confirm reality.
Somehow, we need to continue to make Michigan an attractive place for
businesses to call home. We need to re-establish our workforce as one
that’s educated, dependable, reliable and enthusiastic.
I’ve personally observed that Michiganders who have been fortunate are
also extremely generous. As we close in on the holidays, please remember
to be generous to our neighbors who are in dire need and struggle to
balance the budget every month.
While the study points out just how many are struggling, I’m confident
that Michigan is poised to become one of the states where businesses
want to set up shop and offer well-paying jobs.