“In 2021, the child poverty rate — as measured by the supplemental poverty measure that incorporates the value of government benefits — took a sharp drop to its lowest point on record: 5.2 percent, so that 3.8 million American children were living below the federal poverty line. Then, as a report just released by the Census Bureau found, it experienced the steepest rise in its history in 2022: a hike of 139 percent, or more than double, to 12.4 percent. Five million kids fell back into poverty, pushing the number of kids whose parents were struggling to meet their basic needs up to 9 million.
To anyone following the politics of poverty in America, the jagged rebound was entirely unsurprising. The child poverty rate was like a loaded spring being held down by pandemic-era welfare programs. Chief among them: the child allowance, which expanded on the existing child tax credit (CTC) and sent monthly payments to all parents in poverty, helping to cut child poverty by 46 percent in 2021. Release the spring — or let the expanded CTC expire, as Congress did — and of course it will shoot right back up. The child poverty rates settled right back around pre-pandemic 2019 levels.”
“The concern is that giving out money to people in poverty without requiring them to work in exchange will ultimately create communities where dropping out of work is both widespread and accepted. Cash with no strings attached “gives up on work,” as one conservative analyst put it.
While there have always been disagreements about that view, increasingly, the evidence is against it. Unconditional cash transfers in low-income countries have been found to stimulate economic activity. In a pilot program for guaranteed income in Stockton, California, recipients of unconditional cash were quicker to find full-time employment than control groups.
Looking specifically at the impacts of the expanded CTC, there was no evidence that receiving the benefit reduced work, and economists at Columbia University estimated that making the program permanent would deliver a more than tenfold return on the investment of about $100 billion per year — a major boost to the economy. That means in addition to solidifying the massive drop in child poverty and giving millions of struggling American families continued support to pay for food, school supplies, utilities, and rent, taxpayers would also save money in the long run.”
“At the end of 2021, not quite a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, something unusual happened: Congress actually allowed a massive government program to expire. That program was the expanded child tax credit, which had been enacted as a temporary program under the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a roughly $2 trillion spending package passed exclusively with Democratic votes in March 2021.
A year after the expansion expired, however, Democrats began looking for ways to bring it back. The cost of doing that would be very high.
The ARP raised the maximum child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,600 per child for families making up to $150,000 a year. The one-year program made the credit fully refundable, meaning that people would qualify for it even if they owed no income taxes. That change expanded the benefit to millions of households that previously had earned too little to qualify.
The ARP also turned what had been an annual lump sum around tax season into a monthly payment that in many cases was directly deposited into parents’ bank accounts. In effect, the law set up a program of monthly checks, sent directly to the bank accounts of most families.
Although the program was initially designed as a one-year expansion, supporters hoped it would become permanent. As The New York Times reported in January 2022, the benefit “was never intended to be temporary,” and “many progressives hoped that the payments, once started, would prove too popular to stop.”
Yet at the end of the program’s first year, after paying out about $80 billion, Congress declined to extend the program. Even with Democrats in control of both the House and the Senate, there simply weren’t enough votes to keep it going. Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia, was vocally opposed, citing cost concerns and warning that the expanded eligibility would subsidize unemployment. Progressive ambitions were foiled”
“Total births and the general fertility rate in the US have fallen significantly over the past 15 years. While 2021 saw a 1 percent increase in births from the year before — the likely result of planned pregnancies postponed during the first difficult year of the pandemic, plus the reproductive benefits of remote work — that number was still more than half a million fewer than the US peak in 2007. The total fertility rate — the number of children women are projected to give birth to over the course of their lifetimes — stood at 1.67, well below the point needed to replace the population through reproduction alone. Nearly one in six Americans 55 and over is childless, a percentage that is only expected to grow. Without the boost of immigration, the US population growth rate would have essentially flatlined in recent years, and even with it, it grew by just 0.4 percent in 2022, among the lowest rates in the nation’s history.”
“America has room for more children; it needs them to thrive; and most of all, people do want the freedom to choose the family sizes they desire, including larger ones. It’s a future that progressives can — and should — help create.”
” while it’s true that a child born today will be responsible for adding more carbon into the atmosphere, that 60-metric-ton figure was derived from work by researchers in 2009 who added up not just the lifetime emissions of the child, but dwindling portions of the lifetime emissions of that child’s descendants, all the way until 2400 — and making all of that the responsibility of the parents. And that number assumes that the world will make no additional progress in decarbonizing the global economy, which already isn’t true. In a rich country like the US, a baby born today will emit less CO2 on average over the course of their lifetime than their parents did; according to the International Energy Agency, if the world achieves carbon neutrality by 2050, the carbon footprint of those New Year’s babies could be 10 times smaller than that of their grandparents.”
“As for those fears that having a child would doom them to life in a hot hellscape, the world now appears to be on a path to dodge the worst-case climate scenarios. This isn’t to minimize the very real suffering that will be unavoidable thanks to warming, especially in poorer countries, but a child born today almost anywhere around the world has a better chance of living a good, long life than at almost any other time in the whole of human history.”
“an aging country is one that will have a dwindling number of young workers to support a growing number of elderly. Today there are around three and a half working-age adults to support every American eligible for Social Security. By 2060, that is projected to fall to two and a half workers for every retiree. Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, but without enough young workers putting in payroll taxes, it can’t continue in its current form.”
“A study of 33 OECD nations between 1960 and 2012 found that while countries can remain inventive even as they age, rates of innovation eventually begin to stagnate and decline. As a 44-year-old it pains me to say this, but creativity is a quality most concentrated in the young.”
“The average cost of child care in the US now exceeds $10,000 a year. That’s an enormous burden for working- and middle-class families, but it also discourages people who would have more children from doing so. Reducing the cost of care is one of the few proven ways of boosting fertility over the long term”
“while the most effective way to grow population over the long term is the old-fashioned one — have more children — liberalizing immigration to add more Americans would pay off immediately.”
“According to Sen. Mitt Romney (R–Utah), America’s current welfare policies have two major flaws: They penalize recipients who get married by reducing the benefits they’re eligible for, and they don’t do enough to help couples afford to have more kids.
“There’s a growing gap between the number of children people say they want to have and the number they actually decide to have,” he said during an event yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. “Just to be clear here, I don’t think the goal of policy should be to try to create incentives to have people have more children than they want, but instead should find a way to bridge the gap between what people would like to add to their family and what they’re able to afford.”
Attempting to address these issues, Romney in June released the Family Security Act 2.0, a proposal to send parents monthly checks of between $250 and $700 per child, beginning midway through a pregnancy. A household would need to have earned at least $10,000 the previous year to be eligible for the full benefit, a provision meant to keep families from dropping out of the work force entirely. The program would be “paid for” by reducing or eliminating various existing income tax breaks.
It’s hard to fault efforts to resolve distortions introduced by previous federal policy, including the whoopsie-daisy of incentivizing low-income couples to remain unmarried. The idea that it’s the government’s job to help people have more kids rests on a more debatable assumption—namely, that parents should not have to shoulder the full cost of raising future members of society.
Regardless of whether you buy that “positive externalities” argument, the federal government does spend billions each year on family programs. Given that these efforts are not likely to go away (however much libertarian purists might wish otherwise), it’s worth considering whether Romney’s proposal represents at least an incremental improvement over the status quo.”
“Child care costs exceed those of a mortgage or college in many states. Access to affordable child care is one of the biggest barriers to women’s work, and there’s increasing evidence that the cost of raising children is a barrier to having more kids as well, according to a New York Times survey. Low quality early childhood care situations have lifetime ramifications for children, including worsened health and economic trajectories and an increased likelihood of needing future government assistance.”
“The evidence of improved outcomes for children from universal preschool and universal child care is mixed at best. The preponderance of evidence shows the largest gains for at-risk kids and unclear results for everyone else, and state-based programs haven’t been around long enough to suss out long-term effects.
Moreover, providing generous subsidies to nearly all American families, irrespective of need, will make child care more expensive by increasing demand, which will necessitate larger subsidies over time. This is a recipe for spiraling costs; look no further than our experiments in health care or college to see how quickly costs inflate when the government makes something “affordable.” Exacerbating these dynamics, the administration’s proposal will also constrain child care supply by mandating higher wages and skill levels from providers who already have thin margins as well as potentially limiting religious providers. Faith leaders across religions (Catholic, Muslim, Christian and Jewish) have expressed concern that their ability to continue to provide care will be negatively impacted by BBB. Those providers make up a huge portion of child care providers: A Bipartisan Policy Center poll from last year found that 31 percent of working-parent households used center-based care, and over half, or 53 percent, of these families used one that was affiliated with a faith organization.
To be sure, most parents will be shielded from the effects of rising costs because of the generous subsidies they are receiving, making the policy seem like a win-win on the surface, though they might be affected by the reduced choice providers. But nothing is free. Taxes on the rich and corporations can only go so far, and at some point that money will also need to go toward the historic debt we’ve accumulated. Estimates from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Moody’s suggest that the BBB child care provisions alone will cost nearly $1 trillion over 10 years once fully implemented, far exceeding the money to be provided by the tax increases that Democrats have proposed to fund the legislation. The people likely to pay for BBB and the runaway spending in Washington are the very children whom such policies are supposed to benefit.
Policymakers can do better. Republicans should up the ante on what Democrats have proposed with an alternative child care proposal — one that is more targeted, sustainable and also more transformative — by providing greater support and choice to parents.”
“For the past six months, families with kids have received monthly payments from the federal government as part of the expanded child tax credit — a policy that has slashed child poverty in the US.
If Congress doesn’t act, however, this measure is set to expire for future payments near the end of the month. The last monthly payment was scheduled to go out on December 15, after which these installments will end.”
“The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focusing on social programs, estimates 9.9 million children could fall back into poverty or deeper into poverty if the credit is not extended. It estimates, too, that poverty rates for Black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) children, in particular, will be hardest hit. If BBB doesn’t pass, poverty rates would be 22 percent for Black children compared to 13 percent if it did, 21 percent for Latino children compared to 12 percent, and 18 percent for AIAN children compared to 10 percent.”
“Democrats are reportedly considering a one-year extension of the expanded child tax credit, which pays parents $3,000 annually for every child (and an extra $600 for kids under age 6) and is paid out as a refund even for families that owe no federal taxes. Previously, Biden’s plan called for a five-year extension of the child tax credit. As I wrote in September, the five-year extension was a budget gimmick designed to make the tax credit appear to be roughly $700 billion less expensive than it otherwise would be within the standard 10-year budget window. In short, Democrats were signalling that the expanded child tax credit would be permanent, but they were only accounting for half of what it would actually cost to make it permanent.
A one-year extension would be mashing that same “gimmick” button even harder.
In a similar way, Democrats are also reportedly considering a shorter-than-planned extension of the expanded Obamacare subsidies made available during the pandemic. Instead of being extended permanently, those provisions would technically expire after three years—even though everyone knows they are likely to be extended past that sunset date.
“These proposals don’t actually shrink the package; they just shorten it,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit that advocates for balanced budgets. The CRFB estimates that the twin “blatant budget gimmicks” involving the child tax credit and Obamacare subsidies could hide between $1.5 trillion and $2.4 trillion in future spending, depending on other trade-offs in the final package. Even if the final bill is $1.9 trillion and requires no new borrowing on paper, the CRFB warns that the actual price tag could be as much as $4 trillion with much of the hidden cost financed by adding to the deficit.”
“The expanded child tax credit, a policy passed in March 2021 that beefed up monthly payments to most families with kids, has already had a massive, positive effect on the lives of America’s children. After just one monthly payment, it cut child poverty by 25 percent — and should the larger payments continue, it could slash child poverty by more than 40 percent in a typical year, according to the Urban Institute.
This is a huge decline in a very short time frame. According to the Brookings Institution, child poverty rates dropped by 26 percent between 2009 and 2019, meaning the tax credit accomplished in one month what other policies took a decade to achieve.
Despite that success, the expanded child tax credit (CTC) is in serious danger. As part of their budget negotiations, Democrats are debating how long to extend the program — most likely for a year, with some calling for a four-year (or even indefinite) extension. In the best-case scenario with a short extension, the program will probably run out of money by the end of 2022. In the worst-case scenario, it could end as soon as April 2022, when families are currently due to receive their final enhanced payment.”
“Opponents of the policy, however, argue that these payments could deter recipients from working since parents without an income can receive the help as well. Manchin has expressed this concern, arguing that work and/or education requirements ought to be added to the policy should it be extended. “Don’t you think, if we’re going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?” Manchin has said.
Some researchers have pushed back against this view, noting that a continual credit might help parents join the workforce by enabling them to afford basic services like child care. Given that the expanded child tax credit has only been distributed since July, it’s too early to ascertain which argument is correct, though data from a Columbia University study found that the credit hadn’t had a “significant effect on employment or labor force participation” so far.
There is also debate as to whether access to the credit should be capped even more. Right now, families that make up to $150,000 a year receive the full boost, a figure that Manchin would like to see go down. Manchin has argued that the policy should be capped at households that make $60,000 or less.
Proponents of a more universal policy, meanwhile, argue that broadening the constituency that benefits from the credit will increase its political support. More universal programs including Social Security and Medicare are some of the most popular government offerings and have polled better than Medicaid, which is means-tested.”
“The first of the 2021 child tax credits hit parents’ bank accounts in July — but not for everyone. For many of the parents who need it most, accessing the money may be more of a struggle.
That’s because the IRS — an agency that knows little about the lowest-income Americans, who often don’t file taxes — has been tasked with distributing the money, up to $300 per month per child.
On July 15, the day payments first went out, the IRS said it sent $15 billion to 35 million families, 86 percent of which was sent via direct deposit. That suggests that the vast majority of initial recipients were from families who earned income and filed taxes, many of them middle- or lower-middle-income parents whose names, addresses, and bank accounts are on file from tax returns.
More than 10 million children live in poverty, according to 2019 data from the US Census. Of those, the People’s Policy Project estimates that about 7 million live in non-filing households. (Because these families are, by definition, somewhat difficult to track, estimates vary: The Census Bureau says that 36 percent of children in poverty are from families that did not file taxes in 2019, including 55 percent of children in families in deep poverty.)
Most of these families haven’t signed up to get government stimulus checks, either, effectively leaving thousands of dollars from the government on the table over the past year. The IRS gathered information on an additional 720,000 children in non-filing households where the parents registered to receive stimulus payments.
But that still leaves millions of children whose parents are eligible for the child tax credit (CTC) but who are not on track to receive it.”
““The North Star should be making this as automatic as possible so families don’t have to take affirmative steps to get the support they need.””