COVID-19 has reminded us that vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by many challenges, including this crisis. It also presents us with a pivotal opportunity to better understand how to be responsive to the needs of those experiencing poverty to ensure all children can thrive. As we work towards developing an agenda to build better systems, we should refer to the recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty.
As of 2015, 9.6 million American children lived in households with incomes below the poverty line. The United States Congress asked NASEM to conduct a comprehensive study of child poverty in the U.S. and to identify evidence-based programs and policies. In the report, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, research evidence is used to demonstrate that children living in families with incomes below the poverty line are adversely affected throughout their childhood, limiting their cognitive, health, and developmental potential. The report also provides policy and program recommendations to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 50 percent within 10 years.
NASEM’s committee of experts found that a combination of enhancements to current anti-poverty policies and programs proved effective. Two of the four policy packages it developed could meet the goal of reducing child poverty by 50 percent:
- The “means-tested supports and work package” includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and housing voucher programs at an estimated cost of $90.7 billion per year. It is expected to add about 400,000 workers and generate $2.2 billion in additional earnings.
- The “universal supports and work package” combines an expansion of the EITC and CDCTC with an increase in the minimum wage, a new child allowance, and a child support assurance program, all aimed at increasing employment (600,000+ jobs) and annual earnings by $13.4 billion.
The report identifies six factors that policymakers and program administrators should consider when designing and implementing anti-poverty programs – stability and predictability of income, ready access to programs, equitable treatment across racial and ethnic groups, equitable treatment by the criminal justice system, positive neighborhood conditions, and health and well-being.
As a compliment to NASEM’s policy findings and recommendations, state policymakers may review the following resources from First Focus on Children: