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- Definition: Estimated percentage of children ages 0-17 in families without a resident parent who worked 35 hours or more per week for at least 50 weeks in the previous 12 months (e.g., in 2016-2020, 28.9% of California children lived in families without secure parental employment).
- Data Source: Population Reference Bureau, analysis of U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey microdata files (Aug. 2022).
- Footnote: These estimates are based on a survey of the population and are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. Because of disruptions to data collection in 2020, American Community Survey estimates for 2016-2020 did not meet statistical quality requirements and have larger than usual margins of error; see Information and Advice on 2020 Federal Data Quality and Use.
- 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 with populations of at least 10,000 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.*
- Family Income and Poverty
- Children in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity
- Children in Deep Poverty
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty
- Income Level for Children Relative to Poverty, by Family Type
- Children Living in Low-Income Working Families
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Families in Poverty
- Mothers with a Recent Birth Living in Low-Income Families
- Children in Poverty - Supplemental Poverty Measure (California & U.S. Only)
- Poverty Thresholds - California Poverty Measure, by Family Composition and Housing Tenure
- Children in Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Children in Deep Poverty - California Poverty Measure
- Poverty-Reducing Effects of the Social Safety Net - California Poverty Measure, by Program Type and Poverty Level (California Only)
- Self-Sufficiency Standard, by Family Composition
- Families Living Below Self-Sufficiency Standard
- Children Participating in CalWORKs
- Student Demographics
- Food Security
- Disconnected Youth
- Childhood Adversity and Resilience
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Number (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Type (CA & U.S. Only)
- Children with Two or More Adverse Experiences (Parent Reported), by Race/Ethnicity (CA & U.S. Only)
- Prevalence of Childhood Hardships (Maternal Retrospective)
- Housing Affordability and Resources
- Impacts of Special Health Care Needs on Children and Families
- Why This Topic Is Important
Unemployment and underemployment can limit parents’ ability to meet their families’ material needs, while financial stress can affect their ability to provide for their children emotionally. Children who experience economic hardship when they are young, particularly hardship that is extreme or prolonged, are at increased risk for negative health and developmental outcomes (1, 2). Parental unemployment has been linked to short- and long-term mental health problems in children, as well as academic and employment challenges later in life (1, 2, 3). Secure parental employment (with adequate pay and benefits) can reduce economic hardship and help ensure that children's basic needs are met and that they have family environments in which to thrive (1, 2). Stable employment also is important for young people when they reach early adulthood, as it decreases the likelihood of long-term employment difficulties and low earnings (4).
Recent unemployment crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, hit certain workers particularly hard, especially women, African American/black men, youth of color, immigrants, and those earning lower wages or with less education (1, 4, 5). Leaders can address the systemic issues behind these inequities, as well as support programs and policies to meet the needs of vulnerable groups (1, 4).For more information, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2023). Addressing the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26809/addressing-the-long-term-effects-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-children-and-families
2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Community Pediatrics. (2021). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics, 137(4), e20160339. Retrieved from: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/137/4/e20160339/81482/Poverty-and-Child-Health-in-the-United-States
3. 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
4. Kimberlin, S., & Anderson, A. (2022). In good times and bad, California's black and Latinx workers bear the burden of unemployment. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/in-good-times-and-bad-californias-black-and-latinx-workers-bear-the-burden-of-unemployment
5. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2023). Chart book: Tracking the recovery from the pandemic recession. Retrieved from: https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/tracking-the-recovery-from-the-pandemic-recession
- How Children Are Faring
In 2016-2020, an estimated 29% of California children living in families had no parent with full-time, year-round employment in the previous 12 months, compared with 27% 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 populations of at least 10,000.
California and U.S. unemployment rates, after reaching twenty-year lows in 2019 (4.2% and 3.7%, respectively), more than doubled in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 1.9 million California workers (10.1%) were unemployed in 2020, with rates across counties ranging from 7% to more than 20%.
- Policy Implications
Even before recent economic crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Recession, many 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 women, people of color, immigrants, and families with lower incomes or less education (1, 3, 4). Similarly, during times of prosperity, not all families benefit from a strong economy (1, 2, 3). Policymakers can address labor market discrimination and inequities, support adequate wages and benefits, help build a skilled workforce for in-demand jobs, and remove barriers to work and education (3). These steps, along with promoting a strong social safety net and effective support services, have the potential to minimize unemployment and underemployment, and maximize opportunities for all Californians (2, 3, 4).
Policy and program options that could improve workforce participation, reduce inequities, and mitigate the effects of unemployment include:
For more information, 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.
- Aligning California's education systems with workforce needs and increasing investments to improve college preparation, attendance, and graduation rates, particularly among underrepresented groups such as low-income, African American/black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic/Latino students (3, 5, 6)
- Promoting and strengthening early work opportunities for low-income youth and young people of color, e.g., through work-based learning programs that provide connections to supportive adults and career pathways (6, 7)
- 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, 3, 8)
- 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 discriminatory hiring practices through strengthened and vigorously enforced anti-discrimination laws (2, 3)
- Working across sectors to address other barriers to employment, such as a lack of available housing near employers, affordable child or elder care, or accessible public transportation (2, 3)
- Revising work participation rate requirements and penalties in the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (CalWORKs in California), which research suggests do not lead to long-term improvements in employment (9, 10)
- Updating and strengthening federal and state sick leave, paid family leave, and unemployment insurance systems, ensuring that benefit levels are adequate to make ends meet during job disruptions; also, ensuring that immigrants, who are key to meeting current and future workforce needs, can receive financial assistance when they lose work (3, 4, 11, 12)
- Ensuring that other federal and state safety net policies and investments—such as cash and food assistance, public health insurance, housing supports, and tax credits—support all families in need (2, 3, 4)
- Expanding families’ access to support services addressing mental health, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, and other issues that may interfere with their ability to maintain employment (4, 10)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2023). Chart book: Tracking the recovery from the pandemic recession. Retrieved from: https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/tracking-the-recovery-from-the-pandemic-recession
2. Bohn, S., et al. (2022). Making sense of California's economy. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/publication/making-sense-of-californias-economy
3. Kimberlin, S., & Anderson, A. (2022). In good times and bad, California's black and Latinx workers bear the burden of unemployment. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/in-good-times-and-bad-californias-black-and-latinx-workers-bear-the-burden-of-unemployment
4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2023). Addressing the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and families. National Academies Press. Retrieved from: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/26809/addressing-the-long-term-effects-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-children-and-families
5. Children Now. (2023). 2023 pro-kid policy agenda for California. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/the-2023-pro-kid-policy-agenda
6. California Governor's Council for Post-Secondary Education (2021). Recovery with equity: A roadmap for higher education after the pandemic. Retrieved from: https://postsecondarycouncil.ca.gov/initiatives/recovery-with-equity
7. Ross, M., et al. (2020). Work-based learning can advance equity and opportunity for America's young people. Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Retrieved from: https://www.brookings.edu/research/work-based-learning-can-advance-equity-and-opportunity-for-americas-young-people
8. Young, M., & Andrews, E. (2023). Addressing economic inequity with a whole-of-government approach: Recommendations for aligning federal subsidized employment investments. Center for Law and Social Policy. Retrieved from: https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/economic-inequity-whole-government-approach
9. Lower-Basch, E., & Burnside, A. (2023). TANF 101: Work participation rate. Center for Law and Social Policy. Retrieved from: https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/tanf-101-work-participation-rate
10. Kimberlin, S. (2023). Harmful obstacles: CalWORKs work participation rate (WPR) penalty. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/harmful-obstacles-calworks-work-participation-rate-wpr-penalty
11. Schumacher, K. (2022). Paid family leave payments don't add up for California workers. California Budget and Policy Center. Retrieved from: https://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/paid-family-leave-program-is-out-of-reach-for-many-californians
12. 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
- Brookings: Labor Policy and Unemployment
- California Budget and Policy Center
- California Workforce Development Board
- Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): Income and Work Supports
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Insight Center for Community Economic Development
- Pew Charitable Trusts: Finance and Economy
- Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
- Urban Institute: Economic Well-Being
- Key Reports and Research
- A Plan to Reform the Unemployment Insurance System in the United States. (2021). Brookings. Dube, A.
- A Regional Look at California’s Latest Employment Trends. (2023). Public Policy Institute of California. Bohn, S., et al.
- Addressing Economic Inequity with a Whole-of-Government Approach: Recommendations for Aligning Federal Subsidized Employment Investments. (2023). Center for Law and Social Policy. Young, M., & Andrews, E.
- California's Future. (2021). Public Policy Institute of California. Hanak, E., et al.
- Chart Book: Tracking the Recovery from the Pandemic Recession. (2023). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Future of Work in California: A New Social Compact for Work and Workers. (2021). Institute for the Future for the California Future of Work Commission.
- In Good Times and Bad, California’s Black and Latinx Workers Bear the Burden of Unemployment. (2022). California Budget and Policy Center. Kimberlin, S., & Anderson, A.
- Job Displacement in the United States by Race, Education, and Parental Income. (2022). Brookings. Shiro, A. G., & Butcher, K.
- Making Sense of California’s Economy. (2022). Public Policy Institute of California. Bohn, S., et al.
- Meet the Low-Wage Workforce. (2019). Brookings Institution. Ross, M., & Bateman, N.
- Opportunities to Address Long-Term Unemployment. Arabella Advisors.
- Policy Basics: Unemployment Insurance. (2021). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
- Stabilizing Children’s Lives: Employers. (2020). Urban Institute. Adams, G., & Kuhns, C.
- Taking Action: Positioning Low-Income Workers to Succeed in a Changing Economy. (2019). Hatcher Group.
- The Federal Job Guarantee: A Policy to Achieve Permanent Full Employment. (2018). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Paul, M., et al.
- The Great Recession’s Lessons on State and Local Aid’s Importance in Combating an Economic Downturn and Supporting Children. (2020). Urban Institute. Lou, C.
- The Scarring Effects of Father’s Unemployment? Job-Security Satisfaction and Mental Health at Midlife. (2019). The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. Lam, J., & Ambrey, C. L.
- The Youth Workforce: A Detailed Picture. (2019). Urban Institute. Spievack, N., & Sick, N.
- Youth Apprenticeship in Action: Principles in Practice. (2021). Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship. Messing-Mathie, A.
- County/Regional Reports
- Community Health Improvement Plan for Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health.
- Important Facts About Kern’s Children. Kern County Network for Children.
- Live Well San Diego Report Card on Children, Families, and Community. The Children’s Initiative.
- Orange County Community Indicators Report. Orange County Business Council, et al.
- More Data Sources For Unemployment
- 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- California Family Needs Calculator. Insight Center for Community Economic Development.
- California Health Interview Survey. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
- California Strong Start Index. First 5 Association of California & Children’s Data Network.
- Childstats.gov. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
- The Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey. Urban Institute.
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