According to new academic research, nearly half of U.S. families with young children face a high risk of falling into poverty during their children’s first six years of life.
The study discovered that if those elements in parents’ employment were unstable, their children were more likely to experience poverty in their early years.
What put those families in jeopardy? According to a study conducted by experts at New York University and Washington University, insecure or precarious parental work exists. Work schedules, occupation, hourly wages, and weekly work hours were used to determine whether parents were in less-than-ideal employment situations.
This had long-term ramifications for the children studied, who are now young adults. The study included approximately 10,000 children born in the United States in 2001 and followed them through 2007. “The early childhood experiences of this young adult generation could have implications for their vulnerability to and resilience with today’s precarious job market,” the research published in the “Journal of Child and Family Studies” states.
The findings come as Congress prepares to consider a major social spending package that could benefit families significantly, with proposals including child care funding, a federal paid parental leave program, and extended monthly child tax credit payments. It remains to be seen whether that package, dubbed Build Back Better, will receive the necessary Senate votes.
In an interview, New York University professor Wen-Jui Han, who co-authored the study, said that the data focused on families during the economic “golden years” preceding the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
While that trend did reverse a bit during Covid-19 jobs, with more workers able to say no to jobs without benefits or low pay, there is the risk that that may not continue, Han said.
“We are losing the power on the workers’ side to negotiate the kind of wages, the kind of benefits, the kind of schedule we really should have to in order to really accommodate our family needs,” Han said because children of these workers often live in areas where they cannot access quality education, it is more difficult for them to break the cycle of poverty and eventually get good-paying jobs themselves in adulthood, Han said.
According to Han, the findings indicate a need for policies to address these families’ struggles, which can support children’s needs in their early years and position them for success later on. Ideally, this would include ensuring stable employment for parents so that they are not at risk of being laid off every time there is a recession, decent wages and benefits, and child-care services.
“Income support is really very effective to help our families go through that difficult time where they really need financial support the most,” Han said.