How states humiliate single parents who need government assistance

“To receive government assistance in the US is to submit yourself to a whole host of requirements, some reasonable, some harsh. Each state, and each program within it, has their own requirements, which might be a test of income, of assets, or even of behavior. Some are reasonable — a millionaire probably doesn’t need food stamps; others are more punitive. A disabled single man wanting to get Medicaid in Maryland, for instance, has to show he doesn’t have assets totaling over $2,500. To receive unemployment benefits in Texas, quitting a job to take care of a child makes you ineligible, unless that child has a medical illness.
One requirement is especially odious, and little-known and little-studied: In many states, for many aid programs, you must agree to cooperate with authorities on enforcing child support against the parent of your child.

Depending on the state where they live, a single parent may have to agree to help the government recoup child support in order to receive child care assistance, food stamps, cash welfare, or Medicaid. They may have to establish parenthood of their child, provide estimated dates and locations of conception, home or work addresses of the other parent, or even sign away their right to child support payments to the state.

Given that around 80 percent of custodial parents are women, this is a welfare restriction with a disproportionate effect on one gender — and one that explicitly punishes you for being a single parent.”

“As a country, we’ve operated under a perverse version of the maxim that it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free than one suffer: that it’s better that 10 deserving people receive nothing than a single undeserving one get health care or food. Small-government conservatives create bureaucracies to try to prevent it, and states micromanage peoples’ lives watching for it. But the government doesn’t need to operate that way”

We cut child poverty to historic lows, then let it rebound faster than ever before

“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.”

The case for reimagining the nuclear family

“I’m talking about letting your kids spend more time with their grandparents. Let your kids spend more time with other loving adults in your community. They might be your neighbors, they might be your college friends. They might be your colleagues at work. In a lot of religious traditions, there are these things called godparents; the idea is that a couple has a parental backup plan in case you and your partner dies. But it’s really a case where religious traditions are trying to instantiate a relationship with other adults in their children’s lives, so that they’re surrounded by a loving community of adults.”

“if you think about the evolutionary anthropology of the family, we’ve always been these cooperative breeders. Older siblings have always played a role in raising young children because unlike other non-human primates, we have our children very close together and they’re so dependent on us and we’ve always relied on broader networks.
I don’t say in the book that you should go join a commune and give up your parental rights or something like that. But I do point out that there are some states in the US which now allow for what’s called de facto parenting. So if you’re a divorced couple, and let’s say there’s a stepparent, a stepmother, or a stepfather who’s providing parental care, in many states that person cannot become a legal guardian unless the biological parent gives up their parental rights. So some states are saying, why shouldn’t children have three parents? Why not four parents in LGBTQ+ communities where you might have a surrogate mother and an egg donor and maybe two sperm donors? Or in the case of mitochondrial replacement therapy, which is where you have an egg from one woman, and then the mitochondria of that egg is from a second woman, and then you have a sperm donor. You literally have a child that is biologically related to three adults, three parents.

But our society doesn’t really know what to do with a non-bi-parental model of care. And so there are legal interventions we could make. There are social interventions that we could make. We could really take godparenting seriously and think hard about identifying other adults that can be a presence in our children’s lives as they grow up. I don’t think anybody would say that that’s a bad thing.

It is not psychologically healthy for us to be so isolated and to have all of our love and care from just two people, and I think this became really apparent to people during the pandemic. And now that we are coming out of that, I want people to think, “Hey, maybe those pandemic pods were a great idea! Maybe we should keep them around in some form as a supplement to our parenting efforts.””

“the whole point of this book is to ask what we can do in the absence of state intervention. I’m not talking about socialism here. I’m saying that if we’re not talking about top-down transformations from the state, what are the sorts of things people can do in their own lives within their own communities?”

Bringing the Child Tax Credit Back to Life Is Too Costly

“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”

How China came to regret its one-child policy

“China’s population drop isn’t the result of a single, acute crisis, but years of policy decisions and cultural and economic shifts that have led this nation of 1.4 billion people to where it is today: facing an aging and shrinking population for the foreseeable future.”

“As much as China’s aging and eventual shrinking was a demographic inevitability as it became richer and more modern, the particular speed at which that transition is occurring, and the particular challenges that pace will present, are Beijing’s own doing.”

“In 2015, the Chinese government did something it almost never does: It admitted it made a mistake, at least implicitly.
The ruling Communist Party announced that it was ending its historic and coercive one-child policy, allowing all married couples to have up to two children.

The one-child policy had helped lead to the mother of all demographic dividends, the term for the economist boost created when a country’s birth and death rates both decline. Between 1980 and 2015, China’s working-age population grew from 594 million to a little over 1 billion. China’s dependency ratio — the total young and elderly population relative to the working-age population — fell from over 68 percent in 1980 to less than 38 percent in 2015, which meant more workers for every non-working person.”

“But no fuel burns forever, and over the past decade, hundreds of millions of Chinese have hit retirement age, with a plummeting number of young people to replace them. So the slogans went from “Having only one child is good” to “One is too few, while two are just right.”

How did the Chinese people react? Not by having more children. By 2021, China’s total fertility rate (that is, the number of expected births per woman over the course of their reproductive lifetime) had fallen to just 1.15, nearly a full child below the replacement rate of 2.1. (That’s two to replace each parent, plus a slight extra to make up for children who might die before they reach adulthood”

“For all its power and aggregate wealth — it is by most accounts the world’s second-largest economy — on a per capita basis, it’s still a middle-income country at best. To reach anything like a per capita parity with a country like the UK, let alone the US, would require years more of high-powered economic growth that will be increasingly difficult to pull off in an aging nation. In the end, China could get old before it gets rich.

And if China can’t grow faster, the elderly will bear the brunt of the cost. A 2013 study estimated that nearly a quarter of China’s seniors live below the poverty line, and the country — like many others in East Asia, including richer nations like Japan and South Korea — has little in the way of old-age support. That was less of a problem when older adults could count on being taken care of by their children, but decades of the one-child policy has left an inverted pyramid known as “4-2-1,” with four grandparents and two parents depending on one child.

As more and more young Chinese choose to go without children altogether — pursuing the “double income, no kids” lifestyle — more and more elderly Chinese will have no familial support whatsoever, with one survey projecting 79 million childless older adults in China by 2050. And those trends will reinforce each other — younger Chinese are already citing the burden of caring for elderly parents as one reason to have fewer or no children.”

“Beyond ending the one-child policy, the Chinese government has begun offering financial inducements to couples to have more children, following in the footsteps of other countries that have faced demographic deficits.

Shanghai will give mothers 60 days of additional parental leave, while Shenzhen has joined other Chinese cities in giving subsidies — $1,476 in its case — to couples who have a third child. But don’t expect these moves to make a major difference in birth rates. While such financial incentives might prompt couples to have a child earlier than they had planned, there’s little evidence the programs can convince a childless couple to have a kid, or lastingly increase birthrates.”