Action for Children North Carolina recently released its new report, North Carolina Children in the Recession. The report explores the impacts of the Great Recession on North Carolina’s children and youth. Child poverty has increased during the recession and, due to the sluggish recovery and divestment from state programs for children, the effects of the recession for North Carolina’s children are likely to linger for some time. The following is from the report’s executive summary:
As children grow they depend upon a number of supports to help them successfully transition into adulthood: stable homes, economically secure families and access to quality learning environments where they gain the skills they need to become the workers, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
For children and young adults who have recently weathered the most severe economic downturn of the postwar period, the recession has weakened those supports and caused many to fail altogether. As a result, our children now face greater economic and household distress, are bolstered by fewer public investments and encounter weaker employment and educational opportunities as they transition into the workforce.
This report examines the impact of the Great Recession on North Carolina’s children and young adults. Key findings indicate:
More families face economic insecurity in the wake of the recession. More than one in five children in North Carolina now lives in poverty. As unemployment rose across the state, the number of children living in families where no parent had full-time, regular employment increased 19 percent to 753,000 in 2009.
Increased foreclosures and housing instability threaten children’s social and educational support networks. Between 2007 and 2009, as many as 119,000 children were impacted by foreclosure in North Carolina. Foreclosures and housing instability create disruptions in children’s lives that can diminish their health and educational outcomes.
Although investments in children’s health insurance held, key work supports and early education declined amid budget shortfalls. While American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds helped bolster some state investments during the economic downturn, critical work supports and educational programs were diminished greatly due to state budget gaps. Funding for subsidies that help secure quality child care for working families, individuals looking for employment and those enrolled in school or a job training program declined 40 percent between the 2007 and 2010 state fiscal years.
The recession has erected educational and employment obstacles that endanger young people’s ability to achieve financial independence and assume adult roles as workers, spouses, parents and citizens. Youth ages 16-24 have the hardest time finding work in the current labor market, and have the highest unemployment among North Carolina workers in the aftermath of the recession, 20.5 percent. Persistent, high unemployment delays youths’ entry into the labor force and impedes their transition to adulthood.
Our state’s current and future prosperity depends on how well we nurture, educate and support the positive development of our children. If left unchecked, the recession will create structural damages that will impair the prospects of North Carolina’s children, young adults and economy for future generations.