December 11, 2023 6:27 pm

Opinion

Column: Policymakers Have Opportunities to Make Sure Michigan’s Young Adults Can Thrive | Opinion

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by Sarah Atwood, Michigan Advance

On Saturday, I’m graduating college.

The idea of this is so abstract to me, and although I’ve tried to wrap my head around it a million times, it still doesn’t seem real.

Maybe it’s because for the last few years through the pandemic, time hasn’t felt entirely real. It feels like we’re moving in slow motion, but an overwhelming amount is happening each day. Every time I open an app like Twitter, so much bad news is thrust onto me, and every day I see something new that makes it hard to believe the world will head in the right direction. 

I think a lot of people my age are frustrated with the policies created by those before us. Inflation isn’t new, and prices are continually rising. But incomes and economic security from the government aren’t rising at the same rate. 

Twenty-three percent of Michigan residents 18 to 24 live in poverty, according to a report from the Michigan League for Public Policy. Young adults who are in the lowest income bracket have severely limited opportunities to improve their economic standing. Most cash assistance programs—and even those are in need of major improvements— are targeted to older people, or people with children.

Policy solutions can help support young people to shape their futures the way they want. The Michigan League for Public Policy believes that an equity and justice lens must be used when creating policy. That’s the lens that policymakers used recently  when they passed a boost to the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

We can take that a step further by expanding the EITC at the state level to cover young, single, working adults without children. This extra income will not only be a boost to the economy, but will also lift many young adults out of poverty and ensure they do not slip back in. 

I think a lot of people my age are frustrated with the policies created by those before us.

I’m lucky to be graduating college in four years. Only 48% of Michigan’s young adults are enrolled in or have graduated from college. Racial disparities are stark in this data. Black young adults are the least represented among college students or recent graduates.

There are a lot of reasons why these disparities exist. Black and Latino people have been and still are marginalized in this county, leading to lower economic status and fewer opportunities for advancement. Decades of politicians slashing social support have further exacerbated these disparities.

Another way of ensuring bright futures for Michigan’s children and young adults is by strengthening Michigan’s weighted school funding formula, meaning schools with a larger amount of economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, or English language learners have the money to provide those students with what they need. Policy solutions can improve the lives of all Michigan’s young adults, but especially those who are a part of marginalized groups.

Today’s young adults are easily the most informed generation. We have access to so much information whenever and wherever we want. Scrolling through social media, we have a deeply intimate understanding of both the lives of people around us, as well as what’s happening in the lives of people across the world.

This information allows us to be exponentially more politically aware than any previous generation. More than half of the U.S. population 18 to 24 voted in the last presidential election. We know that the future is in our hands. We see what happens around the world, and we know we have the ability to shape it in a way that provides a stronger foundation for our generation’s future. 

Everyone has the right to high-quality education, housing and medical care, and it’s up to Michigan policymakers to provide and protect the access to these basic rights.

This story was written by Sarah Atwood, a communications intern with the Michigan League for Public Policy and contributor to the Michigan Advance, where this story first appeared.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.