The Impact of Joblessness on America’s Children

While we always think of the impact of unemployment on the working age population of the United States, the impact reaches further into the family unit.  Statistics gathered by the Economic Policy Institute look at how difficult long-term unemployment has been for American families.

 
Here is a graph showing the number of American children with an unemployed parent between 1994 and the end of 2013:
 
 
Of course, the population of the United States has grown substantially since 1994 as has the number of children; between 1994 and 2013, the number of American children grew from 65.96 million to 69.93 million, an increase of 3.97 million or 6 percent.  What we would not expect is the sharp increase in the number of children with an unemployed parent that took place during the Great Recession when the number more than doubled from around 3.5 million in late 2007 to over 7.5 million in 2010.  Since that time, even though the number of children has dropped by just under 900,000, the number of children with an unemployed parent has only dropped to 5.42 million, still elevated above its pre-Great Recession level. 
 
Here is a graph showing the percentage of American children with an unemployed parent between 1994 and the end of 2013:
 
When we remove the impact of a change in the number of children, we see how dire the situation is for American children.  In the years before the Great Recession, the percentage of children with one unemployed parent ranged between 4.5 and 7 percent.  During the Great Recession, the rate shot up to just over 10.7 percent in mid-2010 and had dropped to 7.8 percent at the end of 2013, still well above the 14 year average between 1994 and 2007.
 
We all know that long-term unemployment which is defined as being jobless for more than twenty-seven weeks is proving to be a stubborn issue as shown on this graph:
 
Here is a graph showing the number of American children with a long-term unemployed parent between 1994 and the end of 2013:
 
As we noted on the first graph, the number of children with a long-term unemployed parent grew rapidly during the Great Recession, reaching a peak level of 3.32 million at the end of 2010.  By the end of 2013, the number had dropped to 2.06 million, still twice the maximum level seen during the period from 1994 to 2009.
 
Here is a graph showing the percentage of American children with a long-term unemployed parent between 1994 and the end of 2013:
 
During the period between 1994 and 2009, the percentage of children with a long-term unemployed parent hit a high of just over 1.5 percent in early 1994 and again in early 2004 and was frequently less than 1 percent over most of the 16 year period.  During early 2011, the percentage of children with a long-term unemployed parent hit a peak of 4.68 percent, over four times the rate experienced just prior to the Great Recession.  As the economy has recovered since the end of the latest Recession, the percentage of children with a long-term unemployed parent has dropped, however, the 2013 year-end rate of 2.94 percent is still nearly three times the background rate during the period between 1994 and the Great Recession.
 
As we can see from this data, millions of American children are suffering this extended post-Great Recession period of joblessness.  The prolonged joblessness of parents will have a substantial impact on the future of America's children; without jobs, parents cannot save for post-secondary school education let alone pay their monthly bills.  In this economy where many families require two incomes to survive, the issue of millions of family units with unemployed parents will have a long-term impact on America's future success.
 
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