It’s been easily the most prominent source of intrigue and information over the past two years, inspiring bizarre buzz words like “recessionista.” But the world of academia has been furiously examining the effects of the economic downturn. Not so much how we can overcome it, but how growing up within the constraints of a recession will eventually shape future generations. The findings, while varied, show that the recession could ultimately shape an entirely different view of the world.
For one thing, we now know that if your parents were affected by a recession, your own career prospects could be directly influenced. According to the Journal of Labor Economics, sons whose fathers were laid off eventually earned 9% less than their peers. Meanwhile, Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint has been quite vocal about the eventual effect of the recession on our children, telling Face the Nation in May that “Children need to feel safe, secure, and protected. And the economic downturn makes them feel the opposite, and they can see it in their own families or in the families of their friends.”
The very fabric of those families could also be at risk. EveryChild, an organization that has been attending to the needs of children for 25 years, believes that the recession could be a major contributing factor to a rise in the number of children around the world growing up alone. While EveryChild is attempting to break down how the recession affects underserved children around the world, some U.S. states are doing the same at home. The group Texans Care for Children recently unveiled their own recession-inspired study, whose findings were staggering. According to the organization, the poorest small cities in the country are in Texas, which also had the country’s worst ratings in child homelessness, hunger, and access to health care.
But the true innovative word on the recession and children may come from Bonn, Germany, where a discussion paper from Paolo Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo provides the most wide-ranging data regarding how the recession shapes a child’s psyche. The Institute for the Study of Labor released its findings last month, finding that individuals who grow up during recessions believe that professional success is shaped primarily by luck, not effort, and are less confident in public institutions. Recession-era children also grow up believing in more government distribution and “a more left-leaning orientation.” So while issues like progressive taxation and health care reform may seem divisive today, the generation that grew up in a recession may eventually have something to say for themselves.