Recession Still Affecting Children

Special Report - January 3, 2012

A new report from the Brookings Institute examines the negative effects of the Great Recession on America’s children, including rising child poverty rates and dependence on government assistance programs. The report, “The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on America’s Children: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being Through 2011,” by Julia B. Isaacs was released in December. It tracked the economic health of children during the recession using three state-by-state indicators: “children with an unemployed parent, individuals receiving nutrition assistance benefits, and child poverty.” Among the report’s major findings are that child poverty continues to rise while “the number of children with an unemployed parent is lower than a year ago.” The report also found that North Carolina’s children experienced these negative effects of the recession more dramatically than the average American child.

The report concludes that despite the economy’s slow recovery, “conditions are not yet improving for children in the most vulnerable families,” as demonstrated by the continued deterioration of the economic well-being of America’s children in “2010 and 2011, according to two of the three indicators tracked in this analysis.”

Through September 2011, the national unemployment rate averaged 9.0 percent, down from 9.6 percent in 2010 and its peak of 10.1 percent in October 2009. The report argues that parental job loss harms children through the economic hardship and poverty that results from a sharp decline in family income, psychological distress experienced by unemployed parents, and long-term effects on children’s “grade repetition and education attainment, the child’s aspirations for his or her own future success in the labor market, and the child’s earnings upon reaching adulthood.”

In looking at children with an unemployed parent, the report found that an estimated 6.5 million children up from 3.8 million children in December 2007 and down from 8.1 million children in December 2009, lived in families with an unemployed parent in 2011. Particularly concerning, according to Isaacs, “is the number of children living with parents who have been out of work for more than six months: this number totals 3 million nationally.” The report shows that children in California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada are “particularly likely” to live with parents who have been unemployed for more than six months.

North Carolina’s 10.1 percent unemployment rate outpaced the national average. The 218,000 North Carolina children with unemployed parents in 2011 represented 10 percent of the state’s children (compared to the national average of nine percent) with nearly half of those children’s parents having been unemployed for at least six months (compared to the national average of four percent).

Isaacs also considered participation rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or formerly food stamp). Nearly half of the nation’s SNAP participants are children, “making SNAP caseloads a good indicator of economic well-being among children. Over the past four years, monthly caseloads have skyrocketed by 70 percent, from 26 to nearly 45 million participants. This extraordinary caseload increase means that roughly 8 million more children were receiving SNAP benefits in spring 2011 than four years earlier, bringing the total number of child recipients to21 million. One in seven Americans (14 percent) are receiving SNAP benefits in 2011, with the recipiency rate as high as one in five residents in a half-dozen states (the District of Columbia, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon and Tennessee).” The number of SNAP recipients in North Carolina has steadily risen from 875 in 2007 to 1,571 in 2011. The state's 80 percent growth rate also outpaces the national 70 percent growth rate.

Finally the report considered child poverty rates, which have “risen by a percentage point or more for each of the last four years, from 18 percent in 2007 to 22 percent in 2010. The number of poor children has increased by 3 million over the same time period, totaling 16 million children nationwide in 2010.” North Carolina is one of 14 states to be categorized has having “[h]igh child poverty status before and during the recession,” which the report defines “as having a child poverty rate of 20 percent of higher” in the “pre-recessionary period.” One in five children in North Carolina were categorized as living in poverty between 2000 and 2007. That jumped to one in four children in 2010 and is predicted to remain at 25 percent in 2011.

“Many families have at least one parent out of work, are turning to SNAP benefits to put food on the table, and/or have cash income less than the poverty threshold ($17,000 per year for a family of three),” the report states, concluding that these findings demonstrate “that many families with children have not yet recovered from the recession and are in greater need of government assistance than in normal economic times.”

Related resources:
Replace Welfare With Charity - December 20, 2011
Report Examines Family Structure and Poverty - December 2, 2011
Belonging and Rejection Report - November 21, 2011
Report Questions Definition of Poverty - July 22, 2011
Marriage and Economic Well-Being - FNC - July 2011
America’s Greatest Child Poverty Weapon - October 4, 2010
Squeezing Families: How Expanding Government Undermines the Family - FNC - October 2010
Married Fathers Deter Poverty - June 21, 2010
Why Families Matter - FNC - September 2007

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