One leading indicator of hard times – joblessness – is chiefly considered a problem for adults. But when parents are without work, it impacts the entire family.
Last year, nearly 1 in 8 kids (169,000) in our state had at least one parent who experienced the fear and anxiety of unemployment. That marks an increase of 90,000 since the beginning of the recession in 2007.
That’s according to new data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which today released its 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, sharing state-level data on the health and well-being of kids nationwide.
Kids all across the state are affected by a bad economy, but children of color are more likely to experience the pain. While 37 percent of Washington kids live below 200 percent of the poverty level, that number rises dramatically for kids of Native American (55 percent), African American (54 percent) and Hispanic (63 percent) descent. Two hundred percent of the official federal poverty level, or nearly $44,000 for a family of four, is considered the minimum income needed for most families to make ends meet.
To mark the impact of the recession, KIDS COUNT tracked the number of children living with unemployed parents for the first time this year. Also for the first time, it tallied up the number of Washington kids living in homes subject to foreclosure since 2007: 68,000 children, or about 2 percent of the state’s 1.6 million kids.
Overall, KIDS COUNT ranks Washington 13th in child well-being across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, in important indicators like the number of children in poverty (15th in the country), the number of kids in single parent families (12th), and the infant mortality rate (1st).
Washington’s relatively positive ranking is no surprise: we consistently rank highly because of smart investments in public programs like Apple Health for Kids, which helps make sure children get preventive medical and dental care.
But even our admirable first-place ranking on infant mortality dims when the numbers are broken down by race. The infant mortality rate for Native American families is twice the rate of the general population.
Such disparities affect the prospects for a healthy future for all Washingtonians. And the death of even one child is one too many. We can do better – by strengthening the systems intended to provide support and opportunity to all Washington kids.
KIDS COUNT’s child data is a comprehensive resource for anyone who wants more information about how kids are faring across the country or in their own state, county, city or school district.
For more information about the KIDS COUNT data, contact Lori Pfingst of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center at 206-262-0973 ext. 226.
To help advocate for kids in tough times, call Children's Alliance Community Organizer Emijah Smith at 206-324-0340 ext. 25.