Children are the invisible victims of the housing crisis in the United States.
According to a new study by First Focus, more than 8 million children are directly affected by the ongoing foreclosure debacle.
In other words, more than one in ten American children (11 percent) are affected by the foreclosure crisis, under relatively conservative assumptions, and more than one third of these children live in rental housing. . .
Foreclosures may affect children negatively in at least four different ways.
First, and most obviously, families receiving foreclosure notices are much more likely to move than other families, and, as discussed further below, children who move frequently do less well in school. Second, homeowners receiving a foreclosure notice are under a lot of financial and psychological stress, as they struggle to stay in their house, and if that fails, to find a new home quickly. A body of research dating back to the Great Depression finds that job loss and other forms of economic hardship can affect the way parents interact with each other and their children. In particular, parents under a lot of financial distress sometimes engage in harsher and less supportive parenting, which in turn can lead to negative behaviors on the part of children, making it harder for them to interact well with peers and in school. Third, foreclosures and housing instability have a negative impact on physical as well as mental health, with studies finding higher rates of non-elective visits to emergency rooms and hospitals in ZIP codes with the highest foreclosure rates, as well as a strong association between housing instability and postponement of needed health care visits and necessary medications. Finally, because foreclosures are often highly concentrated in certain neighborhoods, children living in or near foreclosed homes may suffer the consequences of living in neighborhoods with more vacant houses, higher crime rates, lower social cohesion, and a lower tax base.
Children living in rental housing undergoing foreclosure may face many of the same negative effects as children of homeowners, as their parents may be forced to move with little advance notice, and their neighborhoods may also enter into decline.
The country that continues to impose foreclosures as a solution to the bursting of the housing bubble is creating millions of innocent—and frequently invisible—victims.