According to a new study funded by the Foundation for Child Development, as many as 500,000 children are or will become homeless in the United States this year. This sobering statistic is just one of 28 indicators that researchers say point to a declining quality of life for America’s children.
As part of the Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project, researchers at Duke University have complied a list of predictors of well-being that includes statistics relating to economic well-being, safe and risky behavior, social relationships, emotional and spiritual well-being, community engagement, educational attainment and health. Overall, the numbers paint a depressing picture, not just for children, but for the American family in general.
The recession, they say, has caused the economic well-being of many families to plummet to near-1975 levels. The experts estimate that by the end of this year, about 20 million children will be living in households where neither parent has secure income. 15.6 million will be living below the poverty line, the highest rate seen in 20 years.
Of course, with poverty comes bad nutrition and experts estimate that an additional 750,000 children have found themselves living in food-insecure homes since 2007. This, they say, increases the likelihood of obesity in families who are stretching their budgets with cheaper and less nutritious foods.
Ruby Takanishi, president of FCD, says that despite indications that the economy may be recovering, children will continue to feel the impact for years to come.
“Research shows that children who slip into poverty, even for a short time, suffer long-term setbacks even when their families regain their economic footing. This means that, even if the recession subsides soon, the effects on these children will not.”
Dr. Alan Kazdin, professor of psychology at Yale University, says that living in an unstable household can have future health implications for children. Studies have shown that kids who are raised in homes with stressful conditions have higher rates of cancer, liver disease, respiratory disease and other conditions.
There is some good news, but it is a small consolation: Thanks to health care reform, 90% of children will have some sort of health insurance coverage.
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