2.3 Million Children Live With Unemployed Parents Who Were Just Cut Off From Benefits


Three-year-old Jaynell Bender waits as her unemployed parents use computers search for jobs

In a typical month last year, 2.3 million children lived with a parent who had been unemployed for 26 weeks or longer, according to an updated analysis from the Urban Institute. That represents a threefold increase over how many lived in such a situation in 2007.

Every state has seen a big increase in the percentage of children who are impacted by long-term unemployment over the last six years, but Georgia, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. have the largest shares, with more than 4.5 percent of all children affected. DC is particularly bad, with nearly 7.5 percent of children living with a parent who has been out of work for such a long time.

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CREDIT: Urban Institute

Research shows that a parent’s unemployment has a negative impact on children. Studies have found that children whose parents lose their jobs have lower math scores, worse school attendance, a higher risk of needing to repeat a grade, and a bigger chance of being suspended or expelled. The impacts are also felt later on, as these children have lower rates of college attendance and their future earnings can be diminished.

The problem is even more acute now, as the children living with parents who have been out of work for 26 weeks are no longer getting unemployment benefits to get by. That’s because Congress let them lapse at the end of the year. While the benefits may not erase all of the negative effects on children, they likely go a long way toward mitigating them. Poverty nearly triples among parents who can’t find a job for six months or longer. Even if they are meager, the extra income of unemployment benefits may make a huge difference.

These workers and their families aren’t the only ones being impacted by the lapse in benefits, however. State economies lost $400 million in a single week because of the expiration. The entire economy stands to lose 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points from GDP and nearly a quarter of a million jobs.