In the United States, a record 1,169,354 students who attended preschools and K-12 schools were homeless during the 2011 to 2012 school year, according to data released by the Department of Education this month.
Last year’s total of over 1.1 million homeless students is a 10 percent increase from the previous year and a nearly 75 percent increase since the Recession began in 2008, US News reports. Only 8 states – Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah – reported a decrease in the number of homeless students enrolled in Local Educational Agencies (LEAs), or school districts, this year.
Homeless children by definition are those who do not have a fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence, including those who share housing with others, those who are living in motels, camp grounds, emergency or transitional shelters, are abandoned in hospitals, or are awaiting foster care placement, as well as children whose nighttime residence is a public or private place not commonly used as a sleeping accommodation – those living in cars, abandoned buildings, train stations, etc.
According to the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE), the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures educational rights and protections for homeless children, but homelessness is often hard to identify, for many reasons. Kids and parents may try to hide their situation out of embarrassment or fear of having children taken away. Conversely, some children may not want to report their homeless status for fear of being returned to unsafe family environments.
“We’re really alarmed by these numbers,” Cara Balardi, the senior policy director for the children’s advocacy group, First Focus, told US News. “I think it’s a sign that despite what we read in the news about the economy getting better and the recession being over, it’s clear children and families are still suffering the effects.”
In April, the Census Bureau released a report finding that more renters spend a high percentage of their total household income on rent. The report defines high rental costs as 35 percent or more of household income spent on rent alone. In 2011, 44.3 percent of renters spent 35 percent or more of their total income on rent.
“While we saw a decrease in rental vacancy rates and pricing in some areas, the burden of rental costs on households increased across many parts of the nation,” said Author Cresce, assistant division chief for housing characteristics at the Census Bureau.
Of the 50 most populous metropolitan areas in the US, only two became more affordable for renters – Richmond, VA and Buffalo, NY.
Additionally, a study released this fall found that the average American household earns less today than it did at the end of the Recession. The data shows that while unemployment rates have fallen, income has not substantially increased. Nearly every demographic is financially worse of today than before the Recession.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that “Income inequality increased by more in the first three years of the [economic] crisis to the end of 2010 than it had in the previous twelve years.”
The report from the Department of Education comes just after the Census Bureau released their report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in 2012. The report found that, last year, the poverty rate for children was higher than the rates for 18- to 64-year olds as well as 65-year olds and over. Nearly a quarter of US children – 16.1 million – under the age of 18, were living in poverty last year.