The Child Tax Credit is Key to Ending Childhood Hunger
By Katherine Ungar, Senior Policy Associate | November 4, 2022
Child Tax Credit (“CTC”) payments had an immediate impact on children and families, as we discussed in our prior blog posts here and here. For many, the CTC was a lifeline for affording basic needs like food, rent, and clothing.
Research confirms that the Child Tax Credit is essential to end childhood hunger and poverty. In fact, a study published in JAMA Network on October 21, 20221 titled “Association of the Expiration of Child Tax Credit Advance Payments with Food Insufficiency in US Households” conclude that food insufficiency increased substantially between January and July after the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credits on January 15, 2022. They found a nearly 25% increase in food insufficiency, impacting Black, Hispanic and Indigenous families the most.
To measure the impact of the CTC, researchers conducted a cross-sectional study and analyzed US Census data of nearly 600,000 families from July 2021 to July 2022. Low-income households saw the largest increase in food insufficiency after the expiration of the monthly payments, underscoring the importance these credits had for keeping food on the table and reducing childhood poverty.
The conclusion of the study is worth repeating here:
The findings of this study suggest that there was an increase in food insufficiency among households with children after they stopped receiving monthly CTC payments. Given the well-documented associations between inability to afford food and poor health outcomes across the life span, Congress should consider swift action to reinstate this policy.
The CTC, though not designed to be a nutrition program, allowed families to keep food on the table, the most basic of human needs.
Another study from the Brookings Institute, titled “The Impacts of the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit on Family Employment, Nutrition, and Financial Well-being”, reiterates the positive impacts of the CTC on child and family well-being. Researchers found, among other things, that:
- The expanded CTC significantly improved financial security of eligible families.
- The expanded CTC significantly improved food security and healthy eating among those eligible.
- Around 70% of CTC recipients who were negatively impacted by inflation said the CTC payments helped them better manage higher prices.
- The monthly CTC allowed families of color to make significant investments in their children’s long-term educational outcomes (Black, Hispanic and other non-white households were more likely to use the CTC for childcare and education expenses).
The CTC, which was temporarily expanded and increased by the American Rescue Plan Act for tax year 2021, provided up to $3600 per child under age 6 and $3000 per child up to age 17. The expansion also made the tax credit fully refundable and provided half of the credit in monthly payments for the first six months. It proved to be a significant down-payment on ending childhood poverty. In other words, the expanded CTC works. It kept children fed, housed, safe, ready for school, and improved their overall wellbeing.
Of any policy we work on to improve the lives of children, the CTC, perhaps, is the most significant. In the words of our founder, Marian Wright Edelman, “If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.”
That is why we are working hard to stand up for children and pass a permanent and inclusive child allowance to ensure that families can make ends meet and take care of their children.