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Contact: Katie Peters

New Research Confirms the Recession Will Have a Lasting Impact on Children

Housing & Homelessness
Poverty & Family Economics

Washington D.C. – Today, a new report reveals that even temporary spells of poverty will have lifelong health implications for children as significant evidence was found linking poverty to poor child health.

The synthesis, entitled The Effect of the Recession on Child Well-Being examines four areas – health, food security, housing stability and maltreatment – and reviews the relationship of each to the well-being of children during recessions both past and present. Authored by researchers from PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and commissioned by First Focus, the report shows that it will take years for families to recover to pre-recession income levels, with low-income families struggling even longer to rebound.

As a result of increased poverty, approximately 43 percent of families with children report that they are struggling to afford stable housing. The study also found a dramatic increase in the number of households classified as “food insecure” during this recession. Almost a quarter (21 percent) of all households with children fell into this category in 2008, the highest percentage since 1995 when yearly measurement started, and a nearly 25 percent increase from 2007.

“While there has been much discussion about housing issues for families during this recession, I’m not sure many people know how profound the food insecurity issues have been, where as many as 74 percent of children in some of our communities are now relying on food stamps to put dinner on the table,” said David Rubin, M.D., M.S.C.E., director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The evidence is also strong that those families who entered the recession in poverty will take much longer to rebound, demonstrating that we have a long road ahead even as the economy improves.”

The report also shows the benefit of government programs during times of recession.

“The findings of this report continue to shed light on the critical role that safety net programs are playing in reducing the devastating impacts of the recession on children,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a bipartisan child advocacy organization. “Despite serious increases in child poverty as a result of the economic downturn, and an increasingly high number of adults without health insurance, the uninsured rate for children has remained flat. This is entirely due to the overwhelming success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and highlights that targeted federal investments in the health care safety net make a huge difference in the lives of children. As our nation’s leaders guide us down the path to economic recovery, it is critical that they preserve important programs, such as Medicaid and CHIP, in order to continue protecting our most vulnerable children.”

In other areas, such as housing, better safety nets still need to be developed. In 2008, nearly two out of every five renters spent 35 percent or more of their income on housing. The number of homeless families with children who spent time in a shelter rose by 30 percent between 2007 and 2009.

The study was made possible through support from the Foundation for Child Development and will be discussed at a congressional briefing with Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) on Wednesday, November 17.