Families of the Recession: Unemployed Parents and Their Children


The financial crisis has revealed some hidden truths, along with inflicting a lot of economic pain. For example, we know that the paid workforce is more female than male, that fewer women’s jobs have benefits, (including health insurance), and that women’s wages are essential to the household budget.

While there’s lots of worry to go around, children stand to lose the most because of the recession, even more than their parents, who may lose houses, retirement savings, and their good credit scores. The First Focus Campaign for Children has released an analysis of the recession’s effect on children. As their families are pushed closer to poverty, more children will become homeless. Diminishing public funds will negatively impact the quality of their education. Fewer will complete high school, and fewer high school graduates will earn college degrees. Because education directly relates to employment and earnings, these children will never achieve the same economic stability they could have had if the recession had never happened. They will likely experience greater abuse and mistreatment as a result of financial stress. While the recession is usually seen as an economic event, for children it affects the full range of their quality of life, and will continue to do so throughout their adulthood.

Since December of 2007, the number of children with an unemployed parent has doubled, to an estimated 10.5 million, or one out of every seven American children. One third of unemployed men, and almost one half of unemployed women, are parents. The number of unemployed youth, ages 16 to 24, has increased 29% in the same period, to a current estimate of 3.3 million. Last summer, the youth unemployment rate reached its highest level ever.

The authors of “Families of the Recession” suggest a vigorous public response to counter these statistics. They offer policies that would lessen the devastating impact on children, and diminish the likelihood of them growing into poor adults. Congress has been working on a jobs bill that could get parents back to work. It should include funds dedicated to youth employment and bolstering state resources for education. The stimulus plan’s provision for affordable housing should be increased and extended, including programs that will help children continue attending school even if they become homeless. Finally, there are ways to strengthen and support families so that child abuse does not occur and families remain stable and safe. Congress should provide funding for these programs.

It is quite true that all these suggestions cost taxpayer money. However, it is less expensive to mitigate the life-long effects the recession will have by addressing them now, rather than bearing the heavy costs of an enemployed and uneducated population later.

You can find the brief here:


  • Joannie

    Hello Valerie, thanks for your post – very informative and of serious concern. In the face of these wider and critical issues I am writing to let you know that
    the Association for Research on Mothering, York University is under threat of closure. A Friends of the assocation have been set up on Facebook where you can get more information. They are asking for friends and supporters to write to York University, and to pass on the word, amongst other things. This center is important for research and for activism on issues related to mothers, and furthermore moves towards a revisioning of care, and the empowerment of women-as-mothers. Best, Joannie