More Kids Lived with Long-Term Unemployed Parent in ’13 than Pre-Recession

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Graphic from a 2013 Urban Institute report on children of unemployed parents.

More children were living with at least one long-term unemployed parent during the average month in 2013 than before the recession, a new analysis shows.

The Urban Institute analysis comes as the U.S. Senate considers whether to reinstate long-term federal emergency unemployment benefits.

According to the analysis, in an average month in 2013, 2.3 million children were living with a parent who had been unemployed six months or longer, or three times as many children as in 2007.

The analysis updates a 2013 Urban Institute report on children of unemployed parents commissioned by the bipartisan advocacy group for children First Focus.

“For millions of children, the unemployment debate isn’t about economic theory or political ideology. It’s about food on their tables and a roof over their heads,” First Focus President Bruce Lesley said in a statement.

“Extending unemployment insurance should be a no-brainer, but it should also be the beginning, not the end, of a renewed commitment in Congress to invest in children.”

Long-term unemployment remains at record highs, and regular unemployment benefits run out after 26 weeks in most states.

“Of course, the focus is on the unemployed worker because that’s who the benefits go to, but we wanted to make sure that people remember that many of these unemployed workers are parents, and so it’s not just them, but their children who are supported by unemployment benefits,” Julia Isaacs, a senior research fellow at the Urban Institute, told Youth Today. “And when those benefits are cut, it affects not just the worker, but the worker’s family.”

Data from November shows Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have especially large shares of children with parents who’ve been out of work more than six months.

The new analysis follows the September release of U.S. Census Bureau data showing more than 16 million American children, or nearly 22 percent, lived in poverty in 2012. 

In a blog post, Isaacs and Urban Institute research assistant Olivia Healy pointed to research showing parent job loss can hurt children’s school performance, resulting in lower math scores, poorer attendance and higher risk of repeating a grade.  

Some studies have also found longer-term effects of parents’ unemployment. One study cited by the Urban Institute, for example, found lower rates of college attendance among low-income youth whose parents lost their jobs, while another study found lower annual earnings among boys whose fathers lost their jobs after plant closures. 

The blog post noted many working parents are not covered by unemployment insurance because of insufficient earnings or other factors. 

“Yet for those who are covered,” the post stated, “unemployment checks can help families cover their rent or mortgage payments, pay for utilities and transportation, and keep food on the table.” 

Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition on Human Needs, which focuses on the needs of low-income and vulnerable people, called on lawmakers to restore the federal emergency unemployment benefits.

“If Congress fails to restore unemployment benefits, it means children are going to remain poor for a lot longer, and that hurts them,” Weinstein said. “It hurts their health, their development, their education and their future.”

She said rebuilding the economy so there are more jobs should be an “urgent concern.”

The Senate is to consider a bill that would extend until November the federal unemployment benefits.

Weinstein sharply criticized a proposed amendment introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., saying the amendment would harm about 5 million immigrant children, 4 million of them U.S. citizens.

The Coalition on Human Needs says the amendment would deny the Child Tax Credit to immigrant families using the Individual Taxpayer Identification numbers because they do not have a Social Security number. That would deprive taxpaying families of an average of $1,800, according to CHS.