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Children and the Recession

The recession that we are experiencing has impacted just about everyone except for the few who have become richer (more about that later).  At this point in time it is not easy to determine the impact on children since it takes time to analyze the toll.  However, as more and more information has become available we can make some assessment.

One recent report noted that there have been "an increasing number of children leave home for life on the streets, including many under 13. Foreclosures, layoffs, rising food and fuel prices and inadequate supplies of low-cost housing have stretched families to the extreme, and those pressures have trickled down to teenagers and preteens."  The report further noted that about 1.6 million juveniles run away from or are thrown out of their homes each year, although most return home within a week. The government does not conduct a comprehensive survey, but the number of contacts with runaways that federally-financed outreach programs make provides one means of measuring the number of runaways. Those contacts rose to 761,000 in 2008, up from 550,000 in 2002. 

Another report predicted that a recession increases the likelihood that children will be living under the poverty level, which in turn may increase the likelihood of doing poorly in school and dropping out, which can lead to crime. The authors of this report noted that "Children who fall into poverty during a recession will fare far worse along a range of variables, even well into adulthood, than will their peers who avoided poverty despite the downturn in the economy. These children will live in households with lower overall incomes, they will earn less themselves, and they will have a greater chance of living in or near poverty. They will achieve lower levels of education and will be less likely to be gainfully employed. Children who experience recession-induced poverty will even report poorer health than their peers who did not fall into poverty during the recession. These differences will persist for decades into their adult lives.

According to a Brookings Institute report about 1 out of 9 children are living with an unemployed parent. "Children whose parents are unemployed are at increased risk for experiencing poverty, homelessness and child abuse." Children represent 24.5% of the overall population and 35.5% of people in poverty--and 31.3% of people 50% below the poverty threshold (6.9 million children).   Another report notes that: "Half of the poor are now classified as in "extreme poverty"--described as living in families earning below 50 percent of the poverty line. The percent of children who are food insecure also increased to 18 percent in 2010. This growth translates into an additional 750,000 children nationwide who are malnourished.

The 2010 Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI) created by the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) predicted that the effects of the recession will likely include: (1) a decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment; (2) an increase in the rate of those between the ages of 16 and 19 who are "detached" from mainstream institutions because they are not in school and do not have a job; and (3) an increase in "risky behavior" (violence, drugs, etc.).  The key finding here is the decline in pre-kindergarten enrollment as this is a leading predictor of child development in the early years, including delinquent behavior.

The recession has also had an impact on domestic violence.  One recent report noted that in New York "Cases involving charges like assault by family members were up 18 percent statewide." Similarly, in Philadelphia there was a 67% increase in domestic homicides in 2009.  It was also reported that cases of domestic violence had been decreasing during the past 15 years prior to the recession.

Domestic violence is also up in other parts of the country and even in other countries like Finland and England.  Another report noted that: "Three out of four domestic violence shelters report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse since September 2008, a major turning point in the U.S. economy. The survey data directly connects a major reason for the increase in domestic violence to the downturn in the economy."

The title of a report in the Orlando Sentinel tells it all: "As recession deepens, domestic-violence shelters struggle to provide for rising numbers of victims."  A story in the Atlantic likewise reported an increase in domestic violence noting that, among other problems, women are finding it harder to leave their violent partners.

It goes without saying that the rise in domestic violence has a direct impact on children.

Keywords: economy, Randall Shelden, runaway, youth

Posted in Blog, Social Justice

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