Having a baby is wonderful. Unfortunately, roughly 20 percent of American children are poor, and it doesn’t have to be this way. For several years now, my husband Matt and I have been arguing for a universal child allowance, a policy we think would have plenty of upsides. Here, I’ve combined several of our pieces on the subject to serve as a one-stop shop for all your child allowance questions and curiosities.
Using the official poverty metric, I found that, all else equal, a $300/mo child allowance would:
Cut child poverty by 42 percent
Cut child poverty rate by 9.2 percentage points
Cut the child poverty amount by 6.8 million children
Cut adult poverty rate by 2 percentage points
Cut adult poverty amount by 4.7 million people
Cut total poverty rate by 3.7 percentage points
Cut total poverty amount by 11.5 million people
To be specific, I estimated the effects of implementing a $300/month child allowance alongside getting rid of the Child Tax Credit. Here are the results for poverty rates.
Indeed, implementing a child allowance could deliver a substantial blow to child poverty. We calculate that a child allowance of $300 per month per child would have cut child poverty by 42 percent in 2012. Such a reduction would have lifted 6.8 million children out of poverty, plus another 4.7 million parents. Countries with robust transfer income systems for parents like Finland, Sweden, and France have already demonstrated the efficacy of such approaches, especially among the most vulnerable families. In fact, the sole reason the famed Nordic countries have such low childhood poverty is that they extensively utilize child allowances and other programs very similar to it.
It has long been the case that the debate over reducing abortion has cast various agents as insidiously anti-woman; each side of the argument has endured that smear. But a child allowance provides a policy path forward that is simultaneously interested in reducing abortion and empowering women, especially the most vulnerable, with the added benefit of putting money where many mouths are when it comes to valuing the lives of the unborn.
In theory, universal child benefits should attract support from the great majority of the political spectrum. Those on the left can get behind them because they reduce poverty and inequality, provide economic security, and tend to the welfare needs of the least among us. Those on the right can get behind them because they are pro-natalist and provide nonintrusive support for the family institution. For these and other reasons, leftist and conservative parties throughout much of the developed world have been able to agree on at least this issue.
Moreover, the monthly assurance of a child allowance is more attuned to the actual process of raising a child especially during a child۪s earliest years, during which the poorest mothers have the least job protection than an annual tax return. Mothers considering abortion due to financial hardship would thus find themselves in a far more stable, secure situation, and the children they bring into the world would benefit from both better material resources, and the knowledge that their society loves and cares for them.
The way markets distribute income is absolutely hell on families. It makes it financially difficult for people to have children at their prime child-bearing age. It is also horrible for child development, both because of the elevated poverty in general and because that poverty weighs on the youngest children the hardest. For these reasons, a political system that imposes market distributive institutions on society is not one that can be properly called pro-family or pro-children. If you are going to rely on market institutions to distribute most of the national income, you at least need to provide auxiliary institutions to correct for their serious defects. In the case of their anti-family defects, a robust child allowance is a perfect auxiliary institution for that task.
That’s all for now! If you forgot flowers or candy this year, shoot your mom this link. Nothing makes a better Mother’s Day gift than agitating for a universal child allowance.