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Data offer snapshot of how women in Michigan are faring (Hint: It could be better)

Michigan Radio

Stateside's conversation with Sarah Szurpicki, a policy associate for Michigan Future Inc.

Credit EMMA WINOWIECKI / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

A skillful mining of data can give you a pretty good snapshot of how groups of people are faring -- for better or for worse.

Sarah Szurpicki wanted to find out how Michigan women are faring in education, health, and the economy.

She presented her findings in a couple of blog posts for Michigan Future, the non-profit, non-partisan think tank based in Ann Arbor. (See part one here, and part two here).

Szurpicki sat down with Stateside to discuss her findings.

You can listen to the full interview above, or read highlights below.

On what prompted her research into how women are doing

“Certainly now is the time when that question is being asked nationally, with sort of more attention and focus than it has before. That made me curious to go back and look at some of the same issues that we’ve explored for the entire state and see if they’re hitting Michigan’s women differently than they are the general population.”

On how Michigan’s women are doing

“The answer in my blog post was, not great. The most striking thing that I found is really when you sort of put out the numbers that exist for the pay gap, and we know the pay gap is a problem nationally, when you really look at the numbers, it just hurts a little bit. And this is looking at all different levels of educational attainment, which is something I hadn’t looked at before. When I look and see that women with a bachelor’s degree, that they’re median income is less than that of men who have achieved some college or an associate’s degree, you know, that really sort of struck a chord with me.

“This was true at every single level of education, that women were making less than men who’d achieved the next lower tier of educational achievement.”

On the status of women’s health in Michigan

“I am not a health researcher, but I found a really interesting data source that makes some comparisons across the country. I found one piece of good news, which is just that, especially due to the Medicaid expansion, Michigan is doing well in terms of health coverage for women. So we’re 13th in the nation there. So that’s great. But I found startling data around how we’re doing in drug deaths and excessive drinking; we’re 37th and 40th there. And 33rd in terms of maternal mortality. And we’re also doing pretty poorly in terms of funding women’s health services. We’re just a few a way from last in that area.”

On the political will to work on these problems

I think there is a lot of evidence that our leaders believe that we only want to hear a message about the past. I believe that our communities are ready to hear about visions for making a successful transformation to a future economy; that we know we are not gonna have the economy of the 1960s again. We need to figure out how we can be successful in the new economy. So I don’t see people grabbing that yet, but I think the citizens of Michigan are ready for a new agenda.

Szurpicki obtained her health data from the American Health Rankings 2016 Health of Women and Children Report.

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