July 26, 2012

Slow Economy, Recession Have Been Hard On Children

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Times are tough. Job opportunities are low. Financial costs are high. While many adults must face the difficulties of the recession, the fallout of the recession has also affected children and young adults. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that the well-being of U.S. children, particularly in their family life, education, and health, has been impacted.

According to USA Today, the report compiled data from all of the states. Much of the data was pooled from 2010. In 43 states, there were more children enduring poverty in 2010 than in 2005.

“We continue to see deep disparities in educational achievement by race and especially by income,” wrote Patrick T.“‰McCarthy, President and CEO of the Annie“‰E.Casey Foundation, in the report. “Comprehensive early childhood programs and high-quality preschool can help improve school readiness among low-income children, and access to such programs has increased. But only a small percentage of poor children participate in programs of sufficient quality and intensity to overcome the developmental deficits associated with chronic economic hardship and low levels of parental education.”

The report points to 16 trends that are key-indicators of child well-being. As the poverty rate of children goes up, education, health, and parts of family and community declines. Overall child well-being is highest in states such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts, while lowest in states like New Mexico and Mississippi.

One finding showed child and health safety outcomes improved along with rate of health insurance of young adults, while mortality rates decreased. On the other hand, obesity is an issue on the rise, especially for children who are low-income or in minority groups.

Besides research on health and safety, there were studies done in the area of education. One statistic stated that one in four high school students did not graduate on time during the 2008-2009 academic school year. Another statistic found that over 80 percent of African Americans, American Indian, and Latino fourth graders were not reading at a proficient level, as compared to 58 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Furthermore, child poverty began to increase before the recession hit. The child poverty rate in 2000 was at 17 percent. The rate increased almost 30 percent 10 years later, elevating from 12.2 million in 2000 to 15.7 million in 2010. High unemployment and underemployment are thought to be factors in this change, making it difficult for middle-class and low-class families to survive.

“Unlike the domains of Education and Health, where children are benefiting from long-term progress overall, the Economic Well-Being of children and families has plummeted because of the recession,” highlighted the authors in the report.

In terms of family issues, 24.3 million children were reported to be living in single parent households in 2010. As well, African-American, American Indian, and Latino children were more likely to live in areas with high poverty as opposed to students who were of another racial group.

"Unless we make sure children grow up in households and communities where they are nurtured, we won't be successful as a country," Mark Edwards, executive director at children's well-being non-profit Opportunity Nation, told USA Today. "I think people understand education is a piece of the puzzle, and I think there's increasing awareness we have to do more than just focus on schools."

In relation to these various factors, the paper provided a synopsis of three recommendations that could be bolstered. One recommendation highlighted a “two-generation strategy” that would increase parents´ work, income, and assets while focusing on their child´s healthy development and educational successes. The second recommendation focused on the importance of two-parent family in fostering strong connections between the child and the home. The last recommendation advocated community investments to better the social and economic environment for children.

"You've got to help parents get connected to opportunity, be protected from foreclosure, and simultaneously make smart investments in the future for children," McCarthy commented in the USA Today article. "This is not a time to cut early childhood programs, and it's not a time to shut off opportunities for parents."

The researchers are optimistic that recovery will slowly take place with the economy.

“If we want to ensure that the next generation is prepared to effectively compete in a global economy that is increasingly technology driven and dependent on a well-educated workforce, then we must act. With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen our economy and our nation,” concluded the researchers in the report.