RELEASE: Nearly Half of U.S. Children Have at Least 1 Parent With a Criminal Record, According to New Data From the Center for American Progress

New report explores the intergenerational effects that criminal records have not only on the adults who have them but also on their children and families.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released new analysis showing that after nearly four decades of mass incarceration and overcriminalization, 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. While the effects of parental incarceration on children and families are well-documented, CAP’s new report specifically looks at the family consequences that can stem from the barriers associated with a parent’s criminal record.

The report, “Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children: A Two-Generation Approach,” and accompanying infographic explore the intergenerational effects of criminal records and offers policy recommendations that give both parents with criminal records and their children a fair shot by addressing the barriers to opportunity associated with having even a minor criminal record, including employment, housing, education and training, public assistance, financial empowerment, and more.

“Given the growing bipartisan momentum in support of criminal justice reform, now is the time to find common ground and enact solutions to ensure that a criminal record does not consign an individual—or his or her children and family—to a life of poverty,” said Rebecca Vallas, Director of Policy for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP and lead author of the report. “Given the staggering share of America’s children affected by parental criminal records, we ignore the intergenerational consequences at our peril.”

As the report points out, parental criminal records significantly exacerbate existing challenges among low-income parents and their families and can have a substantial and enduring impact on the life chances of children.

“A child’s life chances are strongly tied to his or her circumstances during childhood. The barriers associated with a parent’s criminal record 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,” said Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP and co-author of the report. “Having even a minor criminal record can be a life sentence to poverty, especially and unfortunately for men in communities of color, who are doubly and triply affected over their white counterparts, with collateral consequences for their children as well. We must address the barriers to opportunity associated with having a criminal record, and there’s no better time than now.”

Read the report,Removing Barriers to Opportunity for Parents With Criminal Records and Their Children: A Two-Generation Approach,” by Rebecca Vallas, Melissa Boteach, Rachel West, and Jackie Odum.

Watch archived video of the event,The Impact of Criminal Records on Children and Families.”

Listen to recording of a press call on this topic, which took place at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, December 11, here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Tanya S. Arditi at or 202.741.6258.

Additional Resource:

8 Facts You Should Know About The Criminal Justice System and People of Color, by Jamal Hagler

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