“Income Gap” Growing for Middle-class Families

A report from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) offers an analysis of the relationship between family income and child health, education, and social outcomes. Declining Fortunes of Children in Middle-Class Families (pdf) found that even before the recent recession, middle class families saw a drop in family income of approximately $4,000, while privileged families only saw a decrease of $139. The “income gap” between middle class and high-income families has expanded over the past 20 years, from $60,000 in 1985 to $93,100 in 2008.

The  report found that for middle-class children, public education and health programs have helped to provide supports and services that their families cannot afford, like access to health insurance and pre-kindergarten education. The report’s authors caution that in the face of government budgetary shortfalls, eliminating these services would have a negative impact on the health and wellness of middle-class children.

“This study is a stark reminder that policies we set today have very wide and real ramifications in the lives of children – not only children from low-income families but children squarely in the middle class,” said Ruby Takanishi, President of FCD. “The budget decisions we make in the coming months will have consequences that could last a lifetime.”

More Sleep, Less Obese?

Photo by GraceFamily

A new study published in Pediatrics finds that kids who sleep more hours and on a regular schedule are less likely to be obese. Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Louisville found that kids in the study (aged 4 to 10) slept an average of 8 hours per night. Children whose sleep duration was shorter and did not follow a regular pattern were more likely to be obese.

“Catchup sleep” on the weekends slightly reduced the risk of obesity, but the study also found that obese children were less likely to catch up on sleep on weekends.

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The Recession’s Effect on Children

A new report published by the bipartisan advocacy organization First Focus illustrates how recessions affect child well-being and concludes that even temporary poverty has lifelong health implications for children. Conducted by researchers at PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the report, “The Effect of Recession on Child Well-Being,” says it takes years for families, especially low-income families, to bounce back to pre-recession income levels.

The study synthesized evidence in four areas–health, food security, housing stability, and child maltreatment–and reviewed the correlation of each to child well-being during recessions, past and present. The study found that as a result of increased poverty, approximately 43% of families with children report that they are struggling to afford stable housing. The study also found an increase in the number of “food insecure” households.

“While there has been much discussion about housing issues for families during this recession, I’m not sure many people know how profound the food insecurity issues have been, where as many as 74% of children in some of our communities are now relying on food stamps to put dinner on the table,” said David Rubin, MD, MSCE, director of PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The evidence is also strong that those families who entered the recession in poverty will take much longer to rebound, demonstrating that we have a long road ahead even as the economy improves.”

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