Commentary | Economic Growth

Rising unemployment could leave half of African American children in poverty

When it comes to unemployment, total numbers tell only part of the story. Projections that the current unemployment rate of 8.9% will reach 9.8% next year may seem like a gradual leveling off, but any further rises above today’s already high levels will be devastating for certain sectors of the population, particularly minority children.

In his new presentation, Sounding the Alarm, EPI President Lawrence Mishel, projects that the poverty among African American children, which was at a staggering 34.5% even in the comparatively good times of 2007, will reach 52.3% as a result of continued job loss. The African American community has been hit especially hard by the loss of jobs, with unemployment currently at 15% and is set to rise above 18% next year, Mishel projects. Overall, his report estimates that the overall childhood poverty rate in the U.S. will rise from 18% today to more than 27%.

“The economy has deteriorated so much since October/November 2008 that our fears last November — that unemployment would exceed 10% in mid-2010 if there were no economic stimulus — will likely be realized even with the substantial, smart stimulus package in place,” says Mishel. “Consequently, there will be unacceptably high unemployment and poverty rates next year and beyond.”