Families with precarious employment are at greater risk of poverty

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Almost half of American families with young children are at high risk of falling into poverty in their children’s first six years, according to a new university study.

What puts these families at risk? Precarious or precarious parenting work, according to a study by experts from New York University and the University of Washington.

Four indicators were used to measure whether parents were in less than ideal employment situations: working hours, occupation, hourly wages and weekly working hours.

If these elements in parents’ employment were volatile, their children were more likely to experience poverty in their early years, according to research.

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This had lasting consequences for the children studied, who are now young adults. The data included approximately 10,000 children born in the United States in 2001, and followed them through 2007.

“The early childhood experiences of this young generation of adults could have implications for their vulnerability and resilience to today’s precarious labor market,” says research published in the “Journal of Child and Family Studies. “.

The results come as Congress is set to consider a major social spending program that could have big benefits for families, with proposals including funds for child care, a federal paid parental leave program. and extended monthly child tax credit payments. It remains to be seen whether this package, called Build Back Better, will get the necessary votes from Senate lawmakers.

The data focused on families during the economic “golden years” before the Great Recession more than a decade ago, said New York University professor Wen-Jui Han, co-author of the ‘study, in an interview.

At that time, workers, especially those in service industries, were forced to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as industries faced new demands to stay competitive in a context of increasing globalization, which continues today.

Those in low-paying jobs may need to hold two or three jobs and work 12 or 16 hours a day, Han said.

While that trend reversed a bit during Covid-19, with more workers able to say no to jobs without benefits or low wages, there is a risk that this will not continue, Han said.

“We are losing the power on the workers’ side to negotiate the type of salary, the type of benefits, the type of schedule that we really should have to meet the needs of our families,” Han said.

Because the children of these workers often live in areas where they cannot access a quality education, it is more difficult for them to break the cycle of poverty and secure well-paying jobs on their own. adulthood, Han said.

The findings underscore the need for policies to address the hardships of these families, according to Han, who can not only meet the needs of children in their early years, but also position them for success later.

Ideally, this would involve ensuring stable employment for parents, so that they do not run the risk of being made redundant every time there is a recession, while ensuring decent wages and benefits, as well as childcare services.

“Income support is really, really effective in helping our families get through this difficult time when they really need financial support the most,” Han said.

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