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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Secure Parental Employment

Secure parental employment is a major factor in the financial well-being of families.32 It is associated with higher family income and also has been linked to a number of positive outcomes for children, including better health, education, and social and emotional development.36 One measure of secure parental employment is the percentage of children whose resident parent or parents were employed full time throughout a given year.

Indicator ECON2: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living with at least one parent employed year-round, full time by family structure, 2000–2019
Indicator ECON2: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living with at least one parent employed year-round, full time by family structure, 2000–2019

NOTE: Year-round, full-time employment is defined as usually working 35 hours or more per week for 50–52 weeks. The data for 2019 were collected during the global pandemic of 2020. While the U.S. Census Bureau went to great lengths to continue to complete interviews by telephone, the response rate for the survey was negatively impacted. The Census Bureau creates weights designed to adjust for nonresponse, but non-respondents in 2020 are less similar to respondents than in earlier years. Of particular interest, respondents in 2020 had relatively higher income and were more educated than non-respondents. For possible effects on these estimates, please see https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/research-matters/2020/09/pandemic-affect-survey-response.html.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement.

  • The percentage of children who had at least one parent working year-round, full time increased from 79% in 2018 to 80% in 2019.
  • In 2019, 90% of children living in families maintained by two married parents had at least one parent who worked year-round, full time. In contrast, about 73% of children living in families maintained by a single father and 52% of children living in families maintained by a single mother had a parent who worked year-round, full time.
  • Since 2000, approximately 80%–90% of children living in families maintained by two married parents have had at least one parent employed. In contrast, approximately 50%–70% of children living in families maintained by a single father and approximately 40%–50% of children living in families maintained by a single mother had a least one parent employed. These ranges have trended downward during a recession and increased during economic expansion.
  • In 2019, 81% of children ages 6–17 had at least one parent working year-round, full time. For children ages 0–5, this percentage increased from 77% to 79% between 2018 and 2019.
  • In families maintained by two married parents who were living below the poverty threshold in 2019, about 52% of children had at least one parent working year-round, full time. In contrast, 93% of children in families maintained by two married parents who were living at or above the poverty threshold had at least one parent working year-round, full time.
  • Black, non-Hispanic children and Hispanic children were less likely than White, non-Hispanic children to have a parent working year-round, full time. In 2019, 74% of Hispanic children and 66% of Black, non- Hispanic children lived in families with secure parental employment compared with 86% of White, non- Hispanic children.

table icon ECON2 HTML Table

32 Following U.S. Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directive 14, poverty status is determined by comparing a family's (or an unrelated individual's) income to one of 48 dollar amounts called thresholds. The thresholds vary by the size of the family and the members' ages. In 2017, the poverty threshold for a family with two adults and two children was $25,926. For further details, see http://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html.

36 Cauthen, N. K. (2002). Policies that improve family income matter for children. Improving children's economic security: Research findings about increasing family income through employment (Policy Brief No. 1). National Center for Children in Poverty. https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/download/fedora_content/download/ac:127558/CONTENT/text_480.pdf