Children without Secure Parental Employment

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Learn More About Unemployment

Measures of Unemployment on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, estimates of children under age 18 living in families without secure parental employment (in which no resident parent worked 35 hours or more per week for at least 50 weeks in the previous 12 months) are available for the U.S., California, and counties and county groups as single-year estimates, and for regions of 10,000+ residents and legislative districts as five-year estimates.

Kidsdata.org also provides estimates of unemployed persons in the labor force ages 16 and older. Unemployment numbers and rates reflect persons who are not employed, are available to work, and have looked for work in the previous four weeks.*
*Those who are not employed and not looking for work may be classified as unemployed or not in the labor force, depending on their circumstances; for definitions and additional information, see the California Employment Development Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics glossaries.
Unemployment
Family Income and Poverty
Student Demographics
Food Security
Disconnected Youth
Homelessness
Childhood Adversity and Resilience
Housing Affordability and Resources
Impacts of Special Health Care Needs on Children and Families
Why This Topic Is Important
Unemployment and underemployment can lead to financial and family instability. In addition to limiting parents' ability to meet their families' basic needs, financial stress can affect their ability to provide for their children emotionally. Research has linked parental unemployment to short- and long-term mental health problems in children, as well as negative academic and employment outcomes later in life (1, 2, 3). Unemployment also can cause families to fall below the poverty level. Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, particularly hardship that is extreme or prolonged, are at increased risk for adverse health and developmental outcomes (4). Stable parental employment (with adequate pay and benefits) can counteract this hardship and help ensure that children's basic needs are met and that they have safe, stable family environments in which to thrive (5).

Recent unemployment crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, hit certain families particularly hard, including parents of color, women, immigrants, less-educated parents, and lower-income families (5, 6). Leaders can address the systemic issues behind these inequities, as well as support programs and policies to meet the needs of these vulnerable families.
For more information on unemployment, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Lam, J., & Ambrey, C. L. (2019). The scarring effects of father's unemployment? Job-security satisfaction and mental health at midlife. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(1), 105-112. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/74/1/105/4259759

2.  Ananat, E. O., & Gassman-Pines, A. (2020). Snapshot of the COVID crisis impact on working families. EconoFact. Retrieved from: https://econofact.org/snapshot-of-the-covid-crisis-impact-on-working-families

3.  Nikolova, M., & Nikolaev, B. (2018). How having unemployed parents affects children's future well-being. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/07/13/how-having-unemployed-parents-affects-childrens-future-well-being

4.  American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics. (2021). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), e20160339. Retrieved from: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/4/e20160339

5.  Adams, G. (2020). Stabilizing supports for children and families during the pandemic. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/stabilizing-supports-children-and-families-during-pandemic

6.  Anderson, A. (2020). Women and people of color take biggest hits in California's job losses. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/women-poc-take-hits-in-californias-job-loss
How Children Are Faring
In 2018, an estimated 28% of California children living in families had no parent with full-time, year-round employment in the previous 12 months, compared with 26% of children nationwide. At the local level, the percentage of children without secure parental employment ranged from less than 10% to more than 50% across cities, school districts, and counties with at least 10,000 residents in 2014-2018.

California's unemployment rate in 2019 was an estimated 4%, lower than at any point in the previous 20 years, and down from an estimated 12% in 2010. Since 2000, unemployment trends statewide have followed but consistently exceeded those of the nation.
Policy Implications
Even before recent economic crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, many California workers struggled to find adequate employment to meet their families' basic needs (1, 2). These crises exacerbated existing economic problems and disparities, with job losses disproportionately affecting lower-income families, women, people of color, immigrants, and less-educated workers (1, 3). Similarly, during times of prosperity, not all families benefit from a strong economy (2, 3). Policymakers can address labor market discrimination and inequities, help build a skilled workforce for in-demand jobs, and remove barriers to work and education (2, 4, 6). These steps, along with promoting effective support services, have the potential to minimize unemployment and underemployment, and maximize opportunities for all Californians (2, 4).

Policy and program options that could improve workforce participation, reduce inequities, and mitigate the effects of unemployment include:
  • Continuing to retool California's K-12 and higher education systems, aligning education plans with workforce needs and improving college preparation, attendance, and graduation rates, particularly among underrepresented groups such as low-income, African American, and Latino students (4)
  • Promoting and strengthening early work opportunities for low-income youth and young people of color, e.g., through summer youth employment programs (5)
  • Supporting effective career education, workforce development, and reemployment programs that align with the changing job market; as part of this, promoting comprehensive plans to address long-term unemployment, which may include subsidized employment and improved job-specific training and hiring systems (2, 4, 6, 7)
  • Pursuing targeted strategies to address systemic barriers to stable employment with adequate compensation for people of color, women, and others who are overrepresented among low-wage workers; as part of this, working to eliminate bias and discrimination in hiring practices and ensuring strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws (6)
  • Working across sectors to address other barriers to employment, such as affordable housing near employers, high-quality child care, and public transportation (2, 7)
  • Ensuring that federal and state safety net policies and investments—such as cash and food assistance, health and unemployment insurance, housing and employment supports, and tax credits—adequately support all families in need, including full-time working parents who struggle to make ends meet (2, 8)
For more information on this topic, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit Urban Institute, California Budget and Policy Center, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org for Family Income and Poverty and other topics related to Family Economics.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Adams, G. (2020). Stabilizing supports for children and families during the pandemic. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/stabilizing-supports-children-and-families-during-pandemic

2.  Bohn, S., et al. (2021). California's future. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-future

3.  Anderson, A. (2020). Women and people of color take biggest hits in California's job losses. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/women-poc-take-hits-in-californias-job-loss

4.  Johnson, H., et al. (2019). Higher education in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/higher-education-in-california

5.  Spievack, N., & Sick, N. (2019). The youth workforce: A detailed picture. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.urban.org/research/publication/youth-workforce-detailed-picture

6.  Ross, M., & Bateman, N. (2019). Meet the low-wage workforce. Brookings Institution. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/research/meet-the-low-wage-workforce

7.  Arabella Advisors. (n.d.). Opportunities to address long-term unemployment. Retrieved from: https://www.arabellaadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Opportunities-to-Address-Long-term-Unemployment-Arabella-Advisors.pdf

8.  Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2021). Policy basics: Unemployment insurance. Retrieved from: https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/unemployment-insurance
Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Unemployment