The Decade of Lost Children

NYTimes – opinion/op-ed columnist
Published: August 5, 2011.   By Charles M. Blow

One of the greatest casualties of the great recession may well be a decade of lost children.

According to “The State of America’s Children 2011,” a report issued last month by the Children’s Defense Fund, the impact of the recession on children’s well-being has been catastrophic.

Here is just a handful of the findings:

• The number of children living in poverty has increased by four million since 2000, and the number of children who fell into poverty between 2008 and 2009 was the largest single-year increase ever recorded.

• The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.

• In 2009, an average of 15.6 million children received food stamps monthly, a 65 percent increase over 10 years.

• A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.

• The annual cost of center-based child care for a 4-year-old is more than the annual in-state tuition at a public four-year college in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

Grim data, indeed. And there is no sign that things will get better anytime soon.

As a report issued last week by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out: “Of the 47 states with newly enacted budgets, 38 or more states are making deep, identifiable cuts in K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key areas in their budgets for fiscal year 2012. Even as states face rising numbers of children enrolled in public schools, students enrolled in universities, and seniors eligible for services, the vast majority of states (37 of 44 states for which data are available) plan to spend less on services in 2012 than they spent in 2008 — in some cases, much less. These cuts will slow the nation’s economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs over the next year.”

We risk the creation of an engorged generational underclass born of a culture that has less income equality and fewer prospects for mobility than the previous generation.

It’s hard to see how we emerge from this downturn and its tumult a stronger nation if we allow vast swatches of our children to be lost. My fear is that we may not.

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The New York Times

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