Recession’s biggest losers: Kids

I don’t want to sound like a broken record but when I saw this Las Vegas Sun story by J. Patrick Coolican, I just couldn’t sit on my hands. As many of us prepare to enjoy holiday fun with our loved ones, it can be easy to forget about the many families right here in our hard-hit valley who are struggling with poverty and homelessness.

A hidden reality of the Great Recession is the toll it is taking on children and family life, extending from physical well-being and safety to psychological health and academic achievement.

Experts say young children, and those kicked from the middle class down into persistent poverty, are the most damaged, with the effect reverberating for years.

A report by Michael Linden of the child advocacy group First Focus says children living in poverty because of a recession are three times more likely to be poor as adults than other children.

In other words, the effects of this painful recession, even when it ends, will be felt in Nevada for years, decades even, experts say.

“Poverty can have lingering effects as they become adults,” says Julia Isaacs, a Brookings Institution fellow who studies child poverty.

Nationally, at least 8.1 million children are living with at least one unemployed parent, according to the Brookings Institution. But as with much else during this downturn, the situation here is worse than nearly anywhere else.

Isaacs estimates that 104,000 Nevada children, or 16 percent, are living with an unemployed parent, compared with 10 percent nationwide.

Childhood poverty is rising rapidly, from 15 percent as the recession began, to an estimated 20 percent this year. The portion of Clark County schoolchildren receiving free or reduced-priced lunch has increased from 39 percent to more than 50 percent.

And then I saw this story on 8NewsNow about how valley organizations are struggling to meet the demands of people in need this holiday season.

This just breaks my heart. As I have shared before, during my childhood we vacillated between poverty and working class. Growing up with that experience has informed my entire life. It is why I feel so strongly about giving back and why I work as an activist and blogger.

I don’t ever want to become so removed from my past — so enraptured in the excess of celebrations and life in suburbia — that I forget where I came from. Or how hard it is to find a bootstrap, let alone pull yourself up by one.

To put it another way, let me share an interesting tweet I got today:

TheUndomestic: On lunch, saw 2 homeless men fighting over cans near woman on phone complaining how she wanted a watch. Sociological EXPERIENCE.

These are not just stories. These are people. They are hurting. If you have it in your power to give, even a little, I encourage you to do so. This is the season of giving. So give. Give generously. Give of your heart.

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