Child Health

Nearly 1 in 3 Ohio Children Live in Families Where No Parent Has Regular, Full-time Employment


December 24, 2018

Tracy Nájera, Executive Director

Nikki Thomas, Manager, Research and Data


Nearly 1 in 3 Ohio Children Live in Families Where No Parent Has Regular, Full-time Employment

Statewide, Children and Young Adults Are the Group Most likely to Live in Poverty

COLUMBUS – Nearly 1 in 3 Ohio children (an estimated 744,000) live in families where no parent has regular, full-time employment, according to a new report released by the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, Understanding and Addressing the Changing Needs of Ohio Families and their Children.


While the state’s unemployment rate has ticked down from 10% to 5% since the Great Recession, parents and families continue to struggle with chronic underemployment where no parent works 35 hours per week at least 50 weeks in the year. The results can be devastating for children, with research connecting employment instability with negative effects on a child’s development, diminished academic outcomes and educational attainment, and socioemotional and behavioral issues. Why? Underemployment means parents take home smaller paychecks making it difficult for many parents to provide even basic necessities for their families, like safe, supportive housing or access to health care. The underemployment challenges are disproportionately experienced by families and children of color.


“A tremendous amount of work has gone into bringing our unemployment rate down. Now, it’s time to address our underemployment rate and what it means for our children. For many families, regular, full-time employment is the difference between safe, stable housing or couch surfing; between homes with food on the table or homes where children struggle to fall asleep because they are hungry,” said Tracy Nájera, Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio.


The new report focuses on developing and investing in two-generational approaches that address the needs of families and children to reduce generational cycles of poverty and improve their lives, now and in the future. Research indicates that helping parents and caregivers increase their educational attainment, secure affordable housing, access health services, and obtain high-quality child care will in turn produce significant and positive outcomes for their children.


The report highlights a number of important data points for children, including the following:

  • Poverty – In 2015 and 2016, Ohio children and young adults experienced the highest rates of poverty in the state. More than 21% of children ages 0–11 and young adults ages 18–24 were in poverty, while the poverty rates for working adults were between 10–16%.
  • Wages – On average, Ohio parents need to earn $15.25 per hour to afford housing; yet in 2018, the most common occupations in Ohio paid wages below this threshold.
  • Housing – Despite declining rates of housing insecurity for Ohio children overall, nearly 50% of Black children experienced high-cost housing burdens – more than twice the 20% rate of White families with children.
  • Early Development – Nearly 25% of Ohio’s population lives in rural areas, and 70% of rural Ohio children reside in “child care deserts” – areas with significant shortages of child care options.
  • Education – The parents of 9% of Ohio children lack a high school degree.


The report includes a series of strategic recommendations to address the challenges of Ohio’s changing communities with a focus on education, family sustainability, economic well-being, child health, child welfare, and gender and equity issues that impact children.


Recommendations include:

  • Ensuring that all parents have access to high-quality child care.
  • Exploring potential partnerships between schools and direct service programs for children to ensure children access needed services, such as physical and mental health care.
  • Helping grandparents and other nontraditional caregivers to access benefits and services that help children thrive and ease the financial strain a grandparent could experience while caring for a grandchild.


“We know that the well-being of our next generation relies on reducing barriers to success for their parents,” says Nájera. “The two generational strategies in this report represent a pathway to address critical challenges facing Ohio’s children and families and a call to action and partnership with our policymakers and community leaders.”


The publication of this report coincides with the release of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio’s 2018 State and County Fact Sheets, a comprehensive data collection that details critical indicators of child well-being at the state-, county- and school district-levels. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT grantee for the State of Ohio, and the report data can also be accessed through the KIDS COUNT Data Center.




The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.