The Center for Labor and Community Studies at the University’s Dearborn campus released a report Monday detailing the state of economic inequality in Washtenaw County, titled “Growing Together or Drifting Apart.”

Sociology Prof. Ian Robinson, president of the Huron Valley Central Labor Council, formed a team of six University scholars to investigate wage fluxuation, poverty and income inequality in Washtenaw County since 2005. The group was also asked to predict where the trends might head in the future.

The team also includes Economics Prof. Thomas Weisskopf, Sociology Prof. Howard Kimeldorf, assistant research scientist Roland Zullo, Rackham student Denise Bailey and Statistics Prof. David Reynolds, who is involved with the Center for Labor and Community Studies.

The investigation found that income inequality is on the rise and, after accounting for inflation, that more than half of the county’s residents have seen their pay decline.

The report also stated that one-third of workers and one-quarter of households in the county did not earn enough in 2013 to satisfy basic needs as specified in a 2014 report from United Way.

The Asset Limited, Income Restrained, Employment report report assesses financial hardship in the state of Michigan, with the goal of identifying “the extent of the economic challenges” faced by the state’s residents.

In addition, the committee found that nine out of 10 of the fastest-growing jobs pay too little to meet the ALICE report’s definition of basic needs.

“I think what it says is that by itself the economic marketplace is not going to deliver broadly shared family supporting jobs,” Reynolds said. “Yes, the good news is there are jobs out there and they are going to continue to come, but it’s going to take concrete intervention and planning to make those jobs family-supporting.”

The report said the trends found in Washtenaw County are occurring in many other communities in the country, and have been growing since the mid-1970s.

Ultimately, the report recommends the creation of a task force composed of community organization leaders, organized labor, businessmen and women, elected officials and social science researchers.

Reynolds said the task force will investigate how other local governments have combated similar issues and then propose initiatives to reverse the current trends.

“Leaders will really kind of investigate what have other localities done at the municipal and county level that seems to have worked and is relevant to Washtenaw County and make some recommendations of what are some concrete things that we can do locally to kind of build for this shared future,” Reynolds said.

The task force, which has already been created, includes Paul Saginaw, co-founder and co-owner of Zingerman’s, Chuck Warpehoski, a member of the Ann Arbor City Council and State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor), among others.

Correction: The Center for Labor and Community Studies released the report, not the HVCLC.

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