Could American Child Poverty Be Alleviated By Giving Money to Families?

Anytime the U.S. pats itself on its back for its economic prosperity, it’s hard to reconcile that with the fact that 21 percent of American children live in families below the poverty line. Perhaps it’s time to just start handing poor families money.

A PLAN

Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and Sherrod Brown have either a straightforward or radical solution, depending on who you ask. They want to give every American family (aside from the highest earning ones) at least $3,000 per child each year to ensure that necessities can be covered.

Sign the petition – pass this useful legislation to help American children

Together, the senators have written legislation that would guarantee precisely that. Kids aged five and under would receive $3,600 per year, with that price decreasing to $3,000 for minors aged six to eighteen. Most American families would receive monthly checks – strategically spread out so they’re more likely to be applied to food and clothing – to help defer the costs of raising children.

DIFFERENT THAN A TAX CREDIT

You may be wondering, don’t we already have a child tax credit in place? We do, but counterintuitively many of the poorest children don’t benefit from that system. Because parents have to earn a certain amount of income just to qualify for the refund, the most impoverished people aren’t getting this ~$2,000 financial break despite their need for it.

Under this new plan, some parents would be too rich to qualify, working on a sliding scale that factors both income and number of kids. A married couple with one kid would miss out if they make more than $110,000 combined, while a married couple with two kids loses the benefits if they hit $150,000. Other adjustments would be made for single parent family units.

But don’t worry about these more affluent families – not only do they have the finances to cover basic expenses, they also have all sorts of other tax breaks they can take advantage of instead.

SUCCESS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES

Like so many other progressive ideas that seem infeasible at first glance, the truth is that a lot of the developed world already does it. Canada, Australia and pretty much any European country you can name all have their own versions of rebates of money for children.

These countries all have much smaller rates of children living in poverty than the U.S. does, and though it’d be an oversimplification to say the credit is responsible for this disparity, you’ve got to figure it at least plays a factor. For example, when the UK introduced it in 1999, after ten years, extreme child poverty shrunk to less than half. In that same span, the U.S.’s extreme child poverty rate has shrunk minimally.

THE COST

One of the harder sells for this program will definitely be the cost. Estimates put the expense at $100 billion annually, which is admittedly a lot. However, in context, that’s roughly equivalent to the annual money lost in tax revenue from the GOP tax cuts on the rich. As a matter of priorities, we as a nation ought to ask whether it’s more beneficial to hand back money to the rich (which they’ve failed to “reinvest” in workers) or poor, hungry children.

ASSUAGING OTHERS CONCERNS

Whenever a proposal comes up that involves just handing over cash, there are always anxieties that the money will somehow be misused. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be some parents who spend that money on themselves while their children go without, but if it’s anything like most government benefits, the vast majority of the money will be spent as intended, which is great.

There’s also the worry that this money will inspire people to procreate, and indeed, some countries like France give extra money for every child a family has in the hopes of inspiring just that. However, anyone who thinks they’re getting the better end of the deal by getting $300 a month to cover the expenses of raising a child is way off in their math. The money just isn’t good enough to coax many hesitant adults into giving birth.

The real reason this plan just doesn’t seem like a stretch is we already give $2,000 in tax credits for children – it just rarely goes to the children who need it the most! So why not adjust that?

CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN?

The Bennet-Brown legislation still lacks the critical support even amongst Democrats to get it through the Senate and House, but it’s definitely picking up steam. After languishing for a year, the bill is gaining mainstream Democratic support, with likely presidential contenders Kamala Harris and Cory Booker signing on in recent weeks.

With recent research demonstrating that the progress we’ve made on eliminating child poverty stemming from government policies rather than a booming economy, it’s all the more reason that we give this a shot.

Take Action

Let’s put people power behind this movement to give it more traction. Sign this Care2 petition encouraging the U.S. Congress to get on board. Together we can give families the funds necessary to alleviate the worst parts of child poverty.

55 comments

Yvonne T
Yvonne T24 days ago

thanks for caring

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Caitlin L
Caitlin Labout a month ago

Thanks for posting

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Emma L
Emma L1 months ago

tyfs

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Sabrina D
Sabrina D1 months ago

I've jsut signed the petition.

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Greta L
Greta L2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Ingrid A
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you

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Barbara S
Barbara S2 months ago

thanks very much

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Ann B
Ann B2 months ago

i live in a small town and from what we see when the families that are to poor to buy food get money or food stamps the parents blow it on smokes , gas and items that DO NOT FEED THE CHILDREN.. they even trade their food stamps for cash????so if some one comes up with a solution to actually feed the kids good idea---if it weren't for free school lunches and breakfasts some would get nothing.......hardest is in the summer when there is NO school

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Ann B
Ann B2 months ago

there is NO guarantee that if you give the FAMILY money it will be spent of food for the children--i have seen this to often---cigarettes gas beer..kids still go hungry--thank goodness for free breakfast and lunch programs at school- BAD luck in the summer with no school

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