For Voices for Illinois Children and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we wrote the introductions to each chapter in Illinois Kids Count, the annual data book on child well-being. The introductions provided a framework for a series of charts and graphs on Illinois children’s well-being. The book, part of the national KIDS COUNT project, provides policymakers with benchmarks on progress in child health, education, family stability, and more.
Client: The Annie E. Casey Foundation
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Very few are untouched by recessions as deep as the current downturn, with its record job loss, housing ﬁnance crisis, and dwindling assets, retirement accounts, and other personal investments. In October 2009, unemployment in Illinois reached 11 percent, its highest level in more than 25 years. More than 400,000 have lost jobs since January 2008 in Illinois.
The personal impact of a recession, however, is seldom conveyed in the numbers. Instead, the hardship and stress of jobs lost and bills piling up are evident in the 10-year-old daughter who pulls her hair out in tufts as she worries about her parents. It is in the sudden doubling up with relatives for families evicted or foreclosed on. It is in the teenage son pleading with his parents to let him drop out of high school so he can work to help support the family. It is in the heart attack of the middle-aged, middle-income father of three who cannot make the mortgage.
Nor is the personal devastation over when the stock market begins to climb again or when employers begin to hire. Economies may bounce back, but families take longer to recover from these fundamental disruptions of work, earnings, and home. One study tracked the long-term effects of the 1982 recession on workers who had been laid off after being with a company for at least three years. Twenty years later, those laid off were earning wages about 20 percent lower than workers not laid off.
Child Poverty on the Rise
Children are particularly vulnerable in a recession. In 1983, during another severe recession, child poverty reached 22 percent, much higher than its pre-recession level of 16 percent. When families sink into poverty because of job loss, the eﬀects on children are not only personally costly, but costly to society as well. Children who grow up in poverty are less likely to do well in school, which in turn aﬀects their job prospects. They are more likely to have health problems as children and later as adults. They are also more likely to rely on social services as adults, and they are more likely to serve time in prison.