On Friday, July 8, the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative hosted an event in Washington, D.C., highlighting research by the Century Foundation about reforming the child tax credit and instituting a universal child allowance. “Building on the Child Tax Credit to Help All Children Thrive” brought together key policymakers and researchers for a substantive discussion around reducing child poverty in the United States to help our young residents reach their full potential. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was also in attendance to deliver a keynote address during which she explained her Young Child Tax Credit Act (YCTC) legislation as a step towards ending child poverty.
The American “war on poverty” has lifted millions out of poverty since its inception in the 1960s. Many social programs and public assistance programs instituted in that time have reduced economic hardship. Yet with welfare reform in the 1990s, the absence of good jobs, and the soaring costs of child rearing, roughly one in five children are still in poverty in the United States. Deep poverty—whose who live at half the poverty line or below– has remained a persistent problem, and some of the youngest children in this nation are at the greatest risk of poverty. Decisive action is needed to help an estimated 12 million children under the age of eighteen.
Deep poverty—those who live at half the poverty line or below—has remained a persistent problem, and some of the youngest children in this nation are at the greatest risk of poverty. Decisive action is needed to help an estimated 12 million children under the age of eighteen.
Jeff Madrick, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the Director of the Rediscovering Government Initiative, introduced the event and contextualized the debate around child poverty. He emphasized the damage done by child poverty and the positive role government can play in creating social policy designed to reduce child poverty, introducing Rep. DeLauro as an indefatigable representative of this commitment to better the lives of vulnerable young Americans.
After a brief delay at the Capitol because of a lockdown situation, Rep. DeLauro gave a rousing keynote that highlighted the need for YCTC as a starting point for broader anti-poverty progressive social policy. She noted that reducing poverty is a moral obligation, and she believes members of Congress have the ability to fulfill this obligation. DeLauro emphasized that helping the youngest children in poverty is imperative to healthy child development in the United States, and given the other strides in progressive ideas like paid family leave and living wage campaigns that we have seen, YCTC is part of a broad agenda to combat poverty and inequality. Rep. DeLauro emphasized that this was a unique moment in which a policy window is open for bold strides in anti-poverty programs; the opportunity to move this type of solution does not come often in American politics. You can watch her full address here:
Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality offered his reactions to the YCTC in the context of his work and the rise in deep poverty among Americans. He noted that the YCTC is one step in a larger effort to reduce poverty in the United States. Watch his reaction to Representative DeLauro’s keynote here:
Renée Wilson-Simmons, director of the National Center for Children in Poverty in New York City, was moderator of the panel. She presented figures and tables to visualize the work that each researcher was conducting in the context of the questions she posed. The full discussion as facilitated by Wilson-Simmons is here:
Melissa Boteach, vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP and one of the authors of CAP’s report “Harnessing the Child Tax Credit as a Tool to Invest in the Next Generation,” compared the United States’s rather ungenerous investments in families to that of other developed nations.
Boteach estimated that the United States lost $672 billion in GDP each year from child poverty due to lost productivity of workers and increased expenditures on criminal justice and healthcare. Compared to this substantial cost of doing nothing, investing more in families is a “drop in the bucket.”
Irwin Garfinkel, the Mitchell I. Ginsberg professor of Contemporary Urban Problems at Columbia University, briefly discussed his and his co-authors’ work in the RGI report “Doing More for Our Children,” particularly the benefits of increasing the child tax credit or implementing a universal child allowance. As seen in the figure below, the implementation of universal child allowance would lift millions more children out of poverty than the current child tax credit, particularly if it was made available for all children seventeen years of age or younger.
Cemeré James, vice president of public policy at the National Black Child Development Institute, explained the impact that additional resources can have on black child development. Using Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Need” as a visualization (see below), James demonstrated that providing additional resources to families through a YCTC is part of a comprehensive strategy to promote healthy child development. It helps to cover physiological needs, while additional resources for education, healthcare, social services, and attention from teachers and caregivers are critical to full development.
The final speaker at the panel was Tiffany Jones, chairperson of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Head Start Parent Policy Council. She is a mother of three and has worked as a child care provider for the past ten years. Jones spoke about the financial challenges she and other parents face raising children in an area where childcare, food, and shelter are expensive—in her words, where “everything is expensive.” Her personal experiences as a mother working with other Head Start parents that face economic hardship made concrete the damage done by poverty. You can listen to her story here: