The Situation of Children in this Recession

The Situation of Children in this Recession

Page updated August 18, 2011

"When children grow up in poverty, they are more likely, later in life, to have low earnings, commit crimes, and have poor health... There is significant evidence that poverty has lasting consequences for kids, including educational achievement, cognitive development, and emotional and behavioral outcomes."  —John Irons, economist, Economic Policy Institute: "Economic Scarring: The Long-Term Impacts of the Recession," September 30, 2009

 Children, unable to support themselves, count on their families, their communities, their states, and their nation to ensure their well being.  Taxes are the way we have historically provided quality education, safe and vibrant communities, healthy families, and broadly-shared prosperity, especially when families are unable to provide economic security for children.

New UCC Justice & Witness Ministries Report

August, 2011: This year's 2012 Justice & Witness Ministries Message on Public Education is titled, "Why the conventional Wisdom on School Reform Is Wrong and Why the Church Should Care."  This report examines the rhetoric around public school reform and then examines school achievement in light of two issues of particular importance as the economy lags: family poverty and racial isolation.

Poverty and Children During the Recession: New Major Data Report

July 2011: Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children, 2011.  This report is particularly effective because it presents data from several points of view by breaking the information into sections.  The report includes demographic data and sections on poverty family structure, family income, health, hunger, early childhood, welfare, juvenile justice, and juvenile violence.

Recent Articles from the Press

New UCC web page, Poverty and Public Education, explores the connection of poverty and low school achievement.  What must society do to support the schools that serve concentrations of very poor children?

July 17, 2011: In Our Broken Excalator, NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof visits the high school from which he graduated in Yamhill, Oregon.  He examines the impact of today's budget cuts in the context of the opportunities his school used to offer.

July 5, 2011:  As Budgets Are Trimmed, Time in Class Is Shortened traces the impact of state budget cuts on basics like the length of the school day and the length of the school year.

May 21: 2011: The Math of Heartbreak in Levittown describes school budget cuts at a time when Pennsylvania is slashing its school funding and the local economy is suffering from the loss of manufacturing.

May 2011:  Several important recent articles highlight the how poverty challenges children at school.  Joe Nocera's recent column, "The Limits of School Reform," highlights a longer NY Times Magazine Story, "The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx," the story of a courageous principal, teachers and students at Middle School 223 in New York City.  And, on May 1, Michael Winerip explores the role of school as perhaps the only stable institution in the lives of homeless students in Orlando, Florida, "Homeless, but Finding Sanctuary at School."

February 28, 2011:  In Leaving Children Behind, Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Princeton economist, writes that despite politicians' claims that they care about protecting children, when it comes right down to budgets, children will suffer most across the states and at the federal level.   

February 10, 2011:  Katha Pollitt, writing, "It Takes a Village, Not a Tiger" for The Nation, points to poverty, today's invisible and rarely mentioned issue, as the challenge to high achievement at school.  Writing for a middle class audience, Pollitt reminds her readers that family poverty undermines parenting and affects children.  She warns about the blindness of privilege. 


2010:  In "For the Sake of Our Children, the Federal Government Must Run a Deficit at this Time," Edie Rasell, an economist and the Minister for Economic Justice in the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, explains the need for federal deficit spending in these very tough economic times for the purpose of stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and creating a future for our children.


Recession Slashes Tax Revenues


The UCC’s General Synod 25 declared, “that societies and nations are judged by the way they care for their most vulnerable citizens; that government policy and services are central to serving the common good; that paying taxes for government services is a civic responsibility of individuals and businesses; and that the tax code should be progressive, with the heaviest burden on those with the greatest financial means…”


We find ourselves in the midst of a serious economic recession. One impact of the recession is that tax revenues have declined along with the decline in the overall economy: foreclosures have reduced revenue from property taxes; job losses have decreased revenue from income taxes; and the economic slowdown itself has diminished revenues from inventory and sales taxes. 

  • October 11, 2010:  Economic Policy Institute economist, Algernon Austin, reports on the projected impact of pending state budget cuts on vulnerable children and families.

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls current and projected state budget shortfalls, "stunning," "the largest shortfalls on record."  
  • A stunning August 6, 2010, NY Times story, "Going to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On," documents serious cuts that have been made by local governments to essential services.  Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning Princeton economist and NY Times columnist, explains (August 8, 2010) how governments are merely responding to a growing ethos in this country that would cut taxes for the wealthy and services for the rest of us, including the poorest children.

It is predicted that the state budget crisis will continue into next year and over the next biennium. Total state deficits for 2011 and 2012 are projected to be $260 billion more than currently projected federal stimulus dollars can cover. Many economists advocate for additional federal aid next year to states and local governments as a way of supporting essential services and preventing a decline in the economy if states are forced to cut deeper.


Although the federal government can borrow in hard times, states and localities must balance their budgets every year.  In order to balance their books, states have been slashing programs including many that provide essential services for children and youths. Early in 2009, the federal government stepped in with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the huge federal stimulus that made large grants to stabilize state and local programming, but despite this infusion of funds, state governments have been forced to eliminate or seriously reduce services we all take for granted.   


Budget Crises Reduce Essential Services for Children and Youths

Our University Systems 

On November 19, 2009, the Board of Regents of the University of California raised tuition by 32 percent for all colleges and universities in their system, up $2,500 per year. Thirty-five states have raised tuition at their state colleges and universities and many have reduced available financial aid.

K-12 Public Education 

January 30, 2011...   Extraordinary NY Times article profiles the impact of parents' job losses and financial insecurity on the academic life at a Worthington, Ohio elementary school.  In this story of the children and their teachers, it is possible to feel the ways poverty undermines academic achievement.


Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have cut K-12 school aid. In November of 2009, state legislatures, meeting to balance budgets, were proposing massive cuts to K-12 public education: a cut of $686 million in New York, $260 million in Colorado, and $382 million in Michigan.  Hawaii has shortened the school year by three weeks and furloughed teachers for 17 days this year.    Faced with a budget cut of $53 million of a $350 million district budget, the St. Louis Schools have cut teachers and eliminated 17 of the district’s 67 school nurses, whose job now includes medicating severely disabled children. According to economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, quoting the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US economy has lost 143,000 jobs in state and local education from April-September of 2009.

Children's Health Care   

More than half the states have restricted eligibility or increased fees for health care for children or their parents.  In Rhode Island, 1,000 low-income parents lost eligibility, and California increased costs for families of a million children in its state children's health insurance program.

Mental Health Services 

By August 2009, 32 states had cut community mental health programs by an average of 5% this year. Ohio reduced mental health services this year, including those for youths, by 34 percent.

 Juvenile Justice 

South Carolina has cut funding to its Department of Juvenile Justice by 25 percent. In California many prisons hold more than twice the number of inmates they were designed for. A federal judge ruled in August that poor health and overcrowding are causing avoidable deaths among prisoners. Riots have ensued.  Juvenile facilities are dangerously overcrowded. To realize $12 million in savings, New York plans to close eight youth detention facilities centers and three evening reporting centers for youth offenders.

 Enriched Pre-Kindergarten and Early Childhood Education

Even though we know that expanding access to enriched pre-Kindergarten and early childhood education programs is essential for closing achievement gaps before they widen (most importantly through vocabulary building and creating an environment rich in reading and literacy activities), the Pew Center on the States reports that state budget deficits in Nevada, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Delaware are freezing state investment in pre-K at last year's level. In Ohio, the legislature has severely cut investment in emerging new pre-K programs. Illinois will cut 10,000 eligible children out of pre-K by halting the phase-in of its five year program.  The launch of a new pre-K program in Louisiana has been severely cut back.

Cash Assistance for Families in Poverty 

Hunger has grown precipitously.  The New York Times has reported that "about six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income..."  The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) now helps feed one in every eight Americans.  In St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans, half of all children need and use food stamps.   Massachusetts and Arizona have reduced cash assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or tightened eligibility requirements to reduce participation in the program.

Support Programs for Families with Special Needs

Illinois, Connecticut, and Maine are among states to reduce funding for child welfare, child abuse and foster care programs, mental health, youth services and homeless shelters. Ohio cut the monthly subsidy for parents adopting foster children from $300 per month last year to $235 per month this year. 

Public Libraries

Public libraries are shortening hours and sometimes being closed due to reduced tax revenues in many states. 

Poverty Grows During Recession... Continues to Reflect Racial Inequality

Over 14 million children in the United States lived in poverty in 2008, 44.6% living 50% or more below the federal poverty level.  Over 700,000 more children lived in poverty in 2008 than in 2007.

  •  34.7% of black children were poor in 2008.

  • 30.6% of Hispanic children were poor in 2008.
  • 37% of American Indian children were poor in 2008.
  • 14.5% of Asian American children were poor in 2008.
  • 10.6% of white children were poor in 2008.          


          Huge disparities in overall family wealth divide America. In 2002, long before this recession, white median household net worth was approximately $90,000; Hispanic median household net worth was $8,000; Black median household net worth was $6,000. (American Prospect, September 2009) 





















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