Harsh Cuts Loom as the Percentage of Children Affected by Parents’ Employment Woes More than Doubles
A new national report shows the number of children in North Carolina with an out-of-work parent has more than doubled since the onset of the economic downturn. One in 10 children in North Carolina lived in families with an unemployed parent during an average month in 2012, about 219,000 children across the state. When broader measures of underemployment are considered–such as the number of parents who were forced to accept part-time work; or those who wanted a job, but were no longer actively seeking employment–the number of children who were affected by their parents’ employment challenges last year was 379,000–more than one in every six children in the state.
Nationally, 6.2 million children–one in every 11 children in the country–had a jobless parent in 2012, up from just 3.5 million children in 2007.
Parental unemployment can have devastating long-term consequences for children and their families. Increased household tension and parental irritability can spillover into less supportive, more punitive parental behavior. Developmental psychologists have linked economic stress caused by parents’ loss of income to reduced outcomes for children including: lower math test scores, poor school attendance, behavioral issues, and an increased risk of being held back a grade. The adverse effects of parental job loss can persist well into a child’s adult life. For example, studies have shown that low-income youth whose parents lose their jobs are less likely to attend college and more likely to have lower earnings once they transition into the workforce.
The loss of parental employment is most damaging when it causes a family’s income to fall below the poverty line, or when parents remain out of work for extended periods of time. Among children with an unemployed parent in North Carolina, more than half (58 percent) lived in a household where their parent had been out of work for six months or longer. Children of the long-term unemployed face greater risk of poverty and financial hardship than children in families where unemployed parents are able to find work quickly. In fact, one national study found poverty rates more than triple for households with long-term unemployed parents.