How Recession Affects Your Family

recession and unemploymentYouch! If you think the economy has been tough on individuals, know that the American family has taken an even bigger hit. The share of families with an unemployed member rose from 7.8 percent in 2008 to12.0 percent in 2009, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means that more than one in 10 families has at least one member who is unemployed. That's the highest level ever reached since they began keeping track in 1994.

Specifically, there were 9.4 million families with at least one unemployed member in 2009, up from 6.1 million in 2008. The good news, if you can call it that, is that most families with an unemployed member also have a least one member who is employed. Among families with an unemployed member in 2009, 68.6 percent also had an employed member.

Race, gender and marital status all play a part in the toll unemployment takes on a family.

By race

Black and Hispanic families were more likely to have an unemployed member (17.4 and 16.9 percent, respectively) than were white (11.1 percent) and Asian (11.4 percent) families.

By marital status

Among married-couple families with an unemployed member, 79.9 percent had an employed member, down from 82.5 percent in 2008. Both the husband and wife were employed in 48.5 percent of married-couple families in 2009, compared with 51.4 percent in 2008.

By gender

In 2009, families maintained by women with no spouse present were less likely to have an employed member (72.8 percent) than were families maintained by men with no spouse present (79.8 percent). The mother was employed in 67.8 percent of families maintained by women with no spouse present, and the father was employed in 76.6 percent of those families maintained by men with no spouse present.

By size

Forty-four percent of all American families included children under age 18. Among the 34.8 million families with children, 87.8 percent had at least one employed parent in 2009, down from 90.0 percent in 2008. Both the mother and father were employed in 58.9 percent of married-couple families with children in 2009.

Surprisingly enough, the number of stay-at-home moms is unchanged over the past two years, although they're definitely in the minority: 71.4 percent of all mothers with children are either working or looking for work. And, as one of the last vestiges of traditionalism, mothers with children younger than 6 are less likely to be in the labor force than mothers with older children still at home (64.2 percent employed vs. 77.3 percent employed). But that's still a lot of working moms, and shows that this economy makes it increasingly difficult to make ends meet on just one salary.

It's safe to say, however, that no one yet knows what effects the down economy will have on the children of America. Maybe we'll raise a generation of thrifty kids, just like the children of the '30s. In some ways, that might not be so bad.

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