Between 33 million and 36.5 million children in the United States—nearly half of U.S. children—now have at least one parent with a criminal record. Many of these parents have been convicted of only minor offenses, and many only have arrests that never led to a conviction. But whether or not an individual has been incarcerated, having a criminal record can create obstacles to employment, housing, education and training, public assistance, financial empowerment, and more. Since a child’s life chances are strongly tied to his or her circumstances during childhood, these barriers may not only affect family stability and economic security in the short term but also may damage a child’s long-term well-being and outcomes.
In this report, the Center for American Progress argues that parental criminal records significantly exacerbate existing challenges among low-income parents and their families. The report explores the intergenerational effects of criminal records through five pillars of family well-being: income, savings and assets, education, housing, and family strength and stability.