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Who’s Poor in Michigan?

Compiled by Jan Smith and Ann Dezwarte of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

  • 14% of the Kalamazoo-St. Joseph County population lives in poverty.

  • 26% of the State’s children live with parents who do not have full-time year-round employment.

  • About 8.5 million people living in poverty are among the working poor. Most of them (56%) live in families with children. Over the past two decades, the poverty rate among working families has increased by nearly 50%.

  • The US government recommends spending no more than 30% of household income on rent in order to maintain economic stability. In Michigan 56% of low-income households with children had housing costs that exceeded 30% of household income.

  • Federal government spending on housing assistance is less than half of the amount spent 25 years ago.

  • On average nationally, a household needs to earn $14.66 an hour to afford fair market rent on a two-bedroom apartment.

  • The minimum wage set by the US government is $5.15 an hour. A person working for minimum wage in a fulltime job falls 28% below the poverty level for one ($8,980) set by the US government.

  • Women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. This results in an average annual loss of $4,000 per US family.

  • In Kalamazoo County the average per capita income is $25,522.

  • Unemployment in Kalamazoo County for the month of October 2003 was 5.5%.

  • Only 6% of families on welfare own a car. For many poor families, transportation is one of the major barriers to employment.

  • Family Independence Agency statistics for Kalamazoo County for September 2003: 9,266 Food Stamps Cases, 18,641 Medical Assistance Cases, 1,404 Child Day Care Cases.

  • In the United States, 1% of the population owns 25% of the country’s wealth.


Coltrane, S. & Collins, R. (2001). Sociology of Marriage and Family (5th.ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Coontz, S. (2003). “What We Really Miss About the 1950s.” In A. Skolnick and J. Skolnick (Eds.). Family in Transition (12th.ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

US Census Bureau. United States Department of Commerce. (2003), April 14).

National Center for Children in Poverty. (2003, April 14).

National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. (2003, April 14).

Michigan Department of Career Development. 2003.

Annual Planning Information Report, Program Year 2003.

Michigan Department of Career Development, Office of Labor Market Information.

Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2003, December 3).

Michigan Department of Career Development. ESA Labor

Market Analysis South Central and Western Michigan. Michigan Department of Career Development. (2003, October).


Local Connections

The work done by the following organizations in Kalamazoo County is connected to the issues raised by Nickel and Dimed:

The following organizations in Kalamazoo County offer services connected to the issues raised by Nickel and Dimed:

Deacon's Conference 344-7333
Family Independence Agency of Kalamazoo County 337-4900
Goodwill Industries of Southwest Michigan 382-0490
Gryphon Place 381-1510
Housing Resources, Inc. 382-0287
K/RESA Etc. 349-9676
Kalamazoo County Community Action Bureau 373-5201
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission 345-2974
Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services 385-2916
Kalamazoo Poverty Initiative  
Loaves & Fishes 343-3663
Michigan Works! 383-2536
Ministry with Community 343-5880
Next Door/Open Door Shelters 349-2119
Northside Association for Community Development 344-5490
Portage Community Outreach Center 323-1942
Salvation Army 349-6119
South County Community Services 649-2901
United Way of Greater Kalamazoo 343-2524
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research 343-5541

For a complete listing of all the agencies providing services to those in need, visit the Kalamazoo County Community Information and Referral website at:

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