Study: Foreclosures take toll on kids


One in 10 U.S. children has been or will be affected by the nation's surge in foreclosures, a new report says.

Five years into the foreclosure crisis, an estimated 2.3 million children have lived in homes lost to foreclosure, according to a report from First Focus, a Washington, D.C-based bipartisan advocacy group focused on families.

Another 3 million children live in homes at risk of foreclosure because home loans are in the foreclosure process or are seriously delinquent. And 3 million children lived or live in rental homes lost to foreclosure or at risk, the report says.

"Children are the often invisible victims of the foreclosure crisis," said report author Julia Isaacs. She did the study while at the Brookings Institution and is now a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Labor, Human Services and Population Center.

Isaacs analyzed foreclosure and U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate the number of children affected. The report is the second released by First Focus on the crisis' impact on children, and the organization says it's the first to estimate the number of children affected who live in rental properties.

Not surprisingly, the impact on children is greatest in states that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. In Nevada, almost 1 in 5 children lived or live in owner-occupied homes that were lost to foreclosure or are at risk of being lost, Isaacs estimates.

Elsewhere, the percentages fall to 15% in Florida, followed by 14% for Arizona and 12% for California. In Alaska and North Dakota, only 2% of children are affected, the lowest rates in the country.

Being forced from home affects children's health, interrupts development and hurts their performance in school, said First Focus President Bruce Lesley.

For every forced move that occurs during a school year, a child's math and reading scores drop as much as if they'd missed a month of school, Isaacs says, based on a synthesis of 16 studies.

Isaacs warns that the number of affected children could be even larger. Her estimates are based on mortgage loans made from 2004 to 2008, which captures the bulk of risky loans that contributed to the housing bubble. But it doesn't cover loans outside of that time. The estimate also fails to adjust for the possibility that loan delinquencies may be higher in families with more children, the report notes.

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