The Great Recession May Be Over But It’s Still Holding Back Families in Washington and Across the Nation

Washington families are struggling with the aftermath of the Great Recession, though there has been progress, particularly in the percentage of children with health insurance, a new report says.


Even though the recession ended in 2009, 19 percent of Washington children lived in poverty during 2013, up from 14 percent in 2008, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reports in its annual Kids Count Data Book. In 2013, nearly a third of children were in homes with parents who didn’t have regular jobs, the report adds.


Overall, Washington ranked in the middle of the pack, 19th, among states for child well-being. But, there is good news because Washington ranked 8th in health, with only 6 percent of children lacking health insurance. Another encouraging sign was that the percentage of fourth-grade students reading at grade level rose from 2007 to 2013. Meanwhile, the percentage of children not attending preschool remained relatively stable during that time — about 60 percent. That number, though, should drop in the coming years with Seattle and Washington state expanding access to preschool.


Lack of access to high-quality preschool and child care is a big factor in the opportunity gap that separates poor and non-white children from children in other families, according to the Seattle-based Children’s Alliance.


“Kids of color are up to 30 percent less likely than their peers to be enrolled in preschool. By the time students reach the 3rd grade, the opportunity gap is evident—with Black, Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian students scoring 14-22 percentage points below the state average of 72 percent. This culminates with lower rates of on-time graduation. U.S. Census data suggests that educational attainment is similarly low among families of Hmong, Cambodian, and Laotian descent,” the Alliance said in a media statement accompanying the report.


To address the opportunity gap and help struggling families, Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s Lori Pfingst suggests investing in economic security:

  • Target funding for job training and education to the lowest-income families and communities of color with high-unemployment.
  • Subsidize child care for the lowest-income families.


Read more at the Center’s Schmudget Blog, “Too Many Kids Are Being Left Behind in Economic Recovery.”


National Recognition for I-LABS: University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) is winning national recognition for its pioneering work on early language. Discover magazine recognized I-LABS’ research on how babies learn language as one of the top 100 stories of 2014. The study ranked 75th.


The Smithsonian Magazine also featured I-LABS-supported research on how baby talk can spur early language development in its story “The Many Ways Baby Talk Gives Infant Brains a Boost.”