Children are hidden victims of the economic crisis, report says
Coverage of the current economic crisis has focused on how it's affecting everything from the housing market to the global market, from our pocketbooks to our tax coffers. And of course there's been no shortage of coverage about how the crisis is affecting the White House -- and who will run it after the 2012 election.
But there's one segment of the population that has been largely ignored: How the crisis is affecting the nation's children.
A new report released Wednesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation says that children have been among those hardest hit by the crisis, with the number of children living below the child poverty rate -- "a conservative measure of economic hardship" -- increasing 18% between 2000 and 2009. The report also said that a stunning 42% of the nation's children are in households struggling to make ends mean. That number was higher in California, where 44% are said to be living in poverty. (The threshold used by the study cited a family of two adults and two children living on $43,512 a year.)
Patrick T. McCarthy, president and chief executive of Annie E. Casey Foundation, a family and child advocacy group, releases a study each summer tackling issues facing U.S. families and young children. This year, the foundation decided to issue a national report card focusing on the economic crisis' impact on kids. They expected it to be bad. But not this bad. "We're seeing a dramatic increase in the child poverty rate," he said. "The recession has basically wiped out any gains we made in the 1990s."
Among the figures: In 2010, 11% of children had at least one unemployed parent. And 4% have been affected by a home foreclosure since 2007. That last figure doesn't reflect the number of children living in rental housing that have been affected by foreclosure, such as when a landlord goes under and has to sell off property, displacing tenants, McCarthy said. "It's no doubt higher," he said.
Those are troubling statistics, and not just for those with kids, or those who are struggling, he said. Kids who grow up in poverty today will be a drain on the workforce of the future, a scenario that can't be tolerated as the U.S. faces more global competition than ever before.
Research surrounding the four prior recessions found that children caught up in the economic crisis are likely to exhibit behavioral problems, have difficulty in school, are less educated and earn less money, and have more health problems.That doesn't bode well for a future workforce that is needed to keep America competitive in the global marketplace, he said.
The foundation offers a variety of suggestions to help kids and families, including foreclosure prevention and mediation efforts for families facing a housing crisis, promoting health insurance coverage for children, financial advice for families, and educational interventions for children in crisis to help keep them on track as their families scramble to deal with their financial woes.
"This isn't just a bleeding heart notion that 'We oughta take care of poor kids.' It's about how are we going to build the kind of work force and contributing members of society that will make us strong and keep us globally competitive," he said.
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Photo: A 2005 holiday event at an Orange County church focused on children without families or those living in poverty. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)