Young children and unemployment

We know that children are disproportionally impacted by unemployment and underemployment. EPI has already looked at the total number of children who live in families with at least one unemployed or underemployed parent ( see this snapshot, or this paper).

Given the importance of early childhood development, we should be very concerned with the well-being of young children and how they are impacted by parental unemployment. Having an unemployed parent increases the risk for disruptions in nutrition, housing, and education–all of which are important for brain development specifically and a child’s future more generally.

The figure below shows the percentage of children living in a family with at least one unemployed parent, with a further breakdown of the share of children aged from 0 to 5. The chart shows 2010 (the most recent data available) compared with pre-recession levels in 2007, and also a breakdown by race.

The data shows that kids overall are more likely to be impacted by unemployment, and that children 5 and under are even more at risk. In 2010,  7.5 million children (10.6 percent of all children) lived in a family with at least one unemployed parent. Of those, 2.8 million (11.4 percent of all similarly aged children) were children 5 years old and younger. This is about twice as many children at this age who lived in a family with at least one unemployed parent in 2007, prior to the recession. About 1.2 million of these children 5 and under live in single-parent families where their parent is unemployed.

The impact also varies by race and ethnic status, with children between the ages of 0-5 in black families facing unemployment at twice the rate (18.5 percent of all similarly aged children) as white families (9.1 percent); and Hispanic families (13 percent) are also above the national average.

It’s important to note that these are not families that simply choose to have one parent remain at home, but rather families in which one or both parents want to work, but are unable to find a job.

With children overall, and especially younger kids, being hit hard by unemployment, spurring job creation is not just good policy in the short-run, but is essential for our nation’s long-run economic health.