DataBank Indicator

Secure Parental Employment

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As of 2013, more than one in four children (26 percent) did not have at least one resident parent employed full-time, year-round. Among children younger than six, three in ten (30 percent) were without secure parental employment and, of children in families headed by single mothers, more than half (58 percent).

Importance

Secure attachment to the labor force, defined here as full-time, full-year employment, is a major contributor to financial stability and well-being for families. For low-income families, it is not a guarantee of escape from poverty,
[1] but it is associated with higher family income and greater access to private health insurance. Higher income, in turn, is associated with many positive child outcomes including better health, behavior, academic achievement, and financial well-being as adults.[2],[3]
In particular, deep, persistent, and early poverty are related to poorer child development.[4] A study of low-income families found benefits to children’s social-emotional skills when their mothers were employed early in the child’s life, compared with similar children whose mothers who were not employed.[5] However, in some cases, long hours of employment among mothers with very young children have been associated with modestly negative child outcomes.[6] Studies have found drops in family income, as well as income fluctuation, to be associated with a greater risk of behavioral problems, and lower reading and mathematics achievement, compared with children in families who had not been poor.[7] More recent research links parental (particularly fathers’) permanent job loss to increased likelihood of parental divorce, family relocation, and children’s repeating a grade; and to decreased earnings when children enter the labor force.[8][9] Thus, the “scarring” effects of parental unemployment may be multigenerational.[10]

Trends

68_Fig1The proportion of children with at least one resident parent employed full-time, year-round rose from a low of 67 percent in 1982, to 72 percent in 1990, and 80 percent in 2000, but declined between 2000 and 2010, to 71 percent. By 2013, the proportion had increased to 74 percent of all children. Gains in secure parental employment during the 1990-to-2000 period were particularly large for children in families headed by single parents, for non-Hispanic black children, and for children in poor families. In contrast, between 2006 and 2010, change in this indicator was negative for all groups. Positive gains since then have been mainly among children living with two parents. (Figure 1 and Appendix 1)

Differences by Family Structure

68_Fig2

Children who live in single-parent families are more vulnerable to a parent’s loss of employment than are children living with two married parents. Among children who lived with two married parents in 2013, 87 percent had at least one parent employed full-time, year-round, compared with 42 percent of children living with single mothers, and 63 percent of children living with single fathers. (Figure 2)

Among children living with single mothers, the proportion whose mother was employed full-time declined steadily, from 48 percent in 2006 to 41 percent in 2010, with few gains since. This decline followed a period, coincident with welfare reform, when the rate increased from 33 percent (in 1993) to 50 percent (in 2002).

Among children in families with two parents, secure employment for parents also increased between 1985 and 2000, from 81 to 90 percent. After remaining steady through 2007, the proportion of children in this group who had at least one parent securely employed fell to 83 percent in 2009, recovering to 87 percent by 2013. The proportion of children whose parents both had secure employment, reached a high of 33 percent in 2000, which has not been regained since. The proportion was 32 percent in 2013. (Figure 1)

Differences by Age

Older children are more likely than younger children to have at least one parent employed full-time, year-round. Among children living in single-mother families in 2013, 32 percent of children under age six had mothers employed full-time, year-round, compared with 47 percent of children ages 6 to 17. Among children living in two-parent households, the share of children living with at least one parent employed full-time, year-round also varies by age-group, although the disparity is much smaller (85 and 87 percent, respectively, for children five and younger, and six and older). (Figure 2)

Differences by Poverty Status

68_Fig3In 2013, among children living below the poverty line, slightly more than one in four had at least one parent in the household employed full-time, year-round, compared with more than eight out of ten children at or above the poverty line (27 and 85 percent, respectively). Within each household type (dual-parent, single-mother, single-father), children in poverty were much less likely than non-poor children to have a securely employed parent. (Figure 3)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[11]

In 2013, white children were more likely than Hispanic children to have at least one parent employed full-time, year-round (81 and 66 percent, respectively). At 57 percent, black children were less likely than either white or Hispanic children to have at least one parent with secure employment. However, black children in two-parent families were similar to their Hispanic peers in their likelihood of having at least one parent employed (81 and 80 percent, respectively). Black children living with single mothers were also as likely as their Hispanic peers to have a securely employed parent (41 and 40 percent, respectively). White children in all family types were more likely than their non-white peers to have a securely employed parent. (Appendix 1)

State and Local Estimates

State-level estimates for the following indicators
are available from the KIDS COUNT Data Center:

  • the percentage of children living
    in families where no parent has full-time, full-year employment
  • the percentage of children under age
    six with all available parents in the labor force
  • the percentage of children under
    age six, and children ages 6-12, with no parent in the labor force
  • the percentage of children in
    immigrant families without secure parental employment
  • the percentage of children in
    immigrant families with all available parents in the labor force
  • the percentage of children in
    immigrant families with no parent in the labor force

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

None.

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

See Hashim, K. and Moore, K. A. (2007).
What works for increasing family income and parental employment: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Child Trends Fact
Sheet.

Also, see the Self Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Related Indicators

Definition

A parent is defined as securely employed if he or she was usually working full-time (at least 35 hours per week) for 50 or more weeks in the most recent calendar year.

Data Source

Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, Table ECON2. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/.

Raw Data Source

Current Population Survey, Annual Social and
Economic Supplement
(formerly known as the March Supplement)

http://www.census.gov/cps/

 

Appendix 1 – Secure Parental Employment: Percentage of Children Under Age 18 Living With at Least One Parent Employed Full-Time, All Year: 1 Selected Years, 1980-2013

1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
All Children Living with
Parent(s)
70 70 72 74 80 79 78 77 78 78 78 77 75 72 71 73 73 74
Race/Ethnicity2
White,
non-Hispanic
75 77 79 81 85 84 83 82 82 84 83 82 81 79 79 79 80 81
Black,
non-Hispanic
50 48 50 54 66 65 64 61 62 62 64 64 61 58 53 56 57 57
Hispanic 59 55 60 61 72 73 73 71 73 74 74 72 68 62 61 65 65 66
Poverty Status
Below
Poverty
21 20 22 25 34 32 33 30 33 32 33 32 30 26 24 27 27 27
At
or Above Poverty
81 82 85 86 88 87 87 86 87 88 88 87 85 83 83 85 85 85
Age
Children
Under 6
67 67 68 69 76 76 75 73 74 75 75 73 71 67 66 69 69 70
Children
Ages 6-17
72 72 74 76 81 80 79 79 79 80 80 79 77 74 73 74 75 76
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Children Living in Families Maintained by Two Parents 80 81 85 87 90 89 88 88 88 89 89 89 86 83 83 86 85 87
With Both Parents Working Full Time All Year 17 20 25 28 33 32 30 29 30 31 32 32 31 29 28 29 30 32
Race/Ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 81 83 86 89 92 91 90 90 90 91 91 90 89 87 87 88 89 90
Black, non-Hispanic 73 76 84 85 90 89 84 85 86 85 86 87 84 82 76 82 81 81
Hispanic 71 70 74 77 85 84 82 82 84 85 85 84 80 74 73 79 78 80
Poverty Status
Below Poverty 38 37 44 46 58 54 54 52 55 57 58 54 51 44 40 48 46 48
At or Above Poverty 84 87 89 91 93 92 91 91 92 92 92 92 90 88 89 90 90 91
Age
Children Under 6 76 79 83 86 89 88 85 86 86 87 87 87 84 80 80 83 84 85
Children Ages 6-17 81 82 85 87 91 90 89 88 89 90 90 90 88 85 84 87 86 87
Children Living in Families Maintained by Single Mothers3 33 32 33 38 49 48 50 47 47 48 48 47 45 44 41 41 43 42
Race/Ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 39 39 40 46 53 52 52 52 49 52 51 49 48 47 46 45 46 45
Black, non-Hispanic 28 25 27 33 49 48 49 44 45 45 46 48 45 42 40 39 41 41
Hispanic 22 22 24 27 38 42 45 43 45 45 46 44 40 40 36 38 40 40
Poverty Status
Below Poverty 7 7 9 14 20 19 19 17 19 17 19 20 16 16 15 16 17 16
At or Above Poverty 59 59 60 61 67 67 69 69 67 70 70 68 67 66 65 65 66 65
Age
Children Under 6 20 20 21 24 36 38 40 34 34 37 37 36 33 34 31 32 32 32
Children Ages 6-17 38 37 40 45 55 53 54 53 52 53 54 53 51 48 47 46 47 47
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Children Living in Families Maintained by Single Fathers3 57 60 64 67 69 69 68 63 68 71 67 66 61 54 55 62 61 63
Race/Ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 61 62 68 72 74 71 70 66 70 74 70 68 64 59 62 66 65 68
Black, non-Hispanic 41 59 53 64 52 58 64 54 61 65 64 62 56 48 41 58 51 50
Hispanic 53 53 59 58 68 72 70 63 69 67 64 61 56 47 52 60 61 62
Poverty Status
Below Poverty 15 23 21 24 21 29 34 27 26 32 26 28 22 17 18 24 25 28
At or Above Poverty 68 69 74 79 79 78 77 73 78 80 78 76 71 67 69 74 74 74
Age
Children Under 6 48 57 58 54 65 67 65 56 62 66 61 61 56 46 50 60 56 56
Children Ages 6-17 59 62 67 74 70 70 70 65 71 73 70 69 63 58 58 63 64 66
1Full-time, all-year employment is defined as usually
working full time (35 hours or more per week) for 50-52 weeks.2Data for estimates before 1980 are based on the race/ethnicity of the child, from 1980 on estimates are based on the race/ethnicity of the mother.  Before 1980 data for the mother’s marital status was estimated for the United States from data for registration areas in which marital status of mother was reported.  For 1980 on, data for States in which the mother’s marital status was not reported were inferred from other items on the birth certificate and included with data from the reporting States. Estimates reflect the new
OMB race definitions, and include only those who are identified with a single
race. Hispanics may be of any race.3Includes some families where both parents are present in
the household, but living as unmarried partners.Source: Federal Interagency Forum
on Child and Family Statistics. America’s Children: Key National Indicators of
Well-Being, 2012, Table ECON2. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family
Statistics, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available at:
http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/.


Endnotes


[1]Cauthen, N. (2002). Policies that improve family
income matter to children
. National Center for Children in Poverty. http://www.nccp.org/media/iec02a-text.pdf

[2]Brooks-Gunn, J., and Duncan, G. (1997). The Effects
of poverty on children. The Future of Children.7(2), 55-71. http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf

[3]
Dahl, G., and Lochner, L. (2008). The impact of
family income on child achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax
Credit. NBER Working Paper No. 14599. Washington, DC: National Bureau
of Economic Research.

[4]Moore, K. A., Redd, Z., Burkhauser, M., Mbwana, K.,
& Collins, A. (2009). Children in poverty: Trends, consequences, and
policy options
. Child Trends Research Brief. http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/PovertyRB.pdf.

[5] Coley, R. L. & Lombardi, C. M. (2013). Does maternal employment following childbirth support or inhibit low-income children’s long-term development? Child Development, 84(1), 178–197.

[6] Lucas-Thompson, R. G., Goldberg, W. A., & Prause, J. (2012). Maternal work early in the lives of children and its distal association with achievement and behavior problems: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(6), 915-942.

[7] Moore, K, Glei, D., Driscoll, A, Zaslow, M., and Redd, Z. (2002). Poverty and welfare patterns: Implications for children. Journal of Social Policy, 31(2), 207-227.

[8] Stevens, A. H., and Schaller, J. (2011). Short-run effects of parental job loss on children’s academic achievement. Economics of Education Review, 30(2), 289-299.

[9] Oreopoulos, P., Page, M., and Stevens, A. H. (2008). The intergenerational effects of worker displacement. Journal of Labor Economics, 26(3), 455-483.

[10] Irons, J. (2009). Economic scarring: The long-term
impacts of the recession
. EPI Briefing Paper # 243. Economic Policy
Institute. www.epi.org

[11]Hispanics may be any race.  Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.

 

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2015). Secure parental employment. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=secure-parental-employment

 

Last updated: December 2015

 


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