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Poverty in Oakland County

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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"Oakland County is still one of the wealthiest counties, and although it has fallen down, it still has poverty below 10 percent," said Kurt Metzger, director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit. "But that does not make up for that fact that the number of people that have fallen below the poverty level has more than doubled in the last 10 to 12 years. Poverty is certainly (more) concentrated in certain communities. But, in the last decade, when the recession hit, a lot of homes were lost by people who were under water. People lost jobs, and they couldn't afford their homes. The number of vacant homes then became rentals, which then allowed a number of lower economic folk, people who are right at the poverty level, to move in. If they could get out of Detroit and rent, they did. We saw this mostly in southern Oakland County and Macomb County."

Metzger said that while Oakland County has seen a significant spike in the poverty level, "Macomb County has seen larger spikes in poverty levels. A lot of that was Detroiters moving in, along with people losing their jobs."

The unemployment rate has fallen significantly since its height, with Oakland County releasing numbers in January 2016 that compare December 2011 to December 2015. For Oakland County as a whole, December 2011 had an unemployment number of 7.9 percent, compared to 2015, when it hit a low of 4.2 percent, where it remains. Pontiac had a high of 17.5 percent in 2011, versus 2015, at 9.8 percent, still quite high. Southfield had unemployment of 11.1 percent in 2011; in 2015, six percent, while neighboring Oak Park had an unemployment level of 12.8 percent in 2011, and seven percent in 2015.

In Bloomfield Township, December 2011 saw an unemployment high of 5.5 percent; today, it is at 2.9 percent. Yet there is a current poverty level of six percent more than double 2000's 2.5 percent. Rochester Hills experienced an unemployment level of 6.6 percent in December 2011, while it dropped to 3.5 percent in December 2015. The poverty level in Rochester Hills is 6.1 percent, up from 3.4 percent in 2000; and in Rochester, the poverty level is 5.4 percent, double 2000's 2.7 percent. West Bloomfield had 6.8 employment in 2011; and 3.6 percent in 2015, with a poverty level of 6.4 percent; while nearby Farmington Hills had 5.1 percent unemployment in 2011, and 2.7 percent in 2015. Its poverty level in 2014 was 7.9 percent; in 2000, it was 4.1 percent. The city of Farmington had a poverty level of 6.1 percent in 2014, versus 3.3 percent in 2000.

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