The Recession's Long-Term Impact on Black Kids

Our children may be most vulnerable to damage from the economic downturn.

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One other deeply disturbing trend highlighted in the CWI is the increasing alienation of young people who see no clear path to economic advancement. African-American kids -- who, the CWI reports, will experience an unemployment rate near 40 percent -- are particularly vulnerable. "It starts with the cuts we are seeing in prekindergarten programs around the country and extends to adolescents," Land says. "We are picking up increases in detached youth, teens who are not enrolled in school or employed. Without these social bonds, we may see upticks in violence and risky behaviors."

There was one bright spot in the CWI data: the role of the church in black communities. "We found that African-American children with higher levels of involvement in religious institutions were better off emotionally. [That involvement] served as a buffer against depression," says Land, underscoring what may be the most important message to be gathered from the CWI.

"The report should be a rallying cry to people who may be able to mentor children, help support community health programs, boys' and girls' clubs, and other activities," Poussaint says, "as well as a [reason] to model positive examples in the community, such as single parents who do a wonderful job raising their children. Even in these times, engaging kids in constructive activities and simply spending time with them can make a difference." Social connectedness, nurtured by families and community organizations, is the one type of wealth we can always give our children to sustain them through tough economic times.

Sheree Crute is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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