America could reduce child poverty by 60 percent by investing another 2 percent of the federal budget each year in programs that boost employment and low wages and help meet children’s basic needs, a new Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) report shows. By lifting 6.6 million children out of poverty, these steps would generate long-term benefits for those children and the nation as a whole.
CDF commissioned the Urban Institute to analyze how a package of policy proposals would affect child poverty. The findings include:
- Investing more in housing assistance for poor families with children so 2.6 million more families could afford safe, stable housing would reduce child poverty by 21 percent.
- Raising SNAP benefits by 30 percent to cover a larger share of children’s nutritional needs would reduce child poverty by 16 percent.
- Making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable would reduce child poverty by 12 percent.
- Expanding subsidized minimum-wage jobs programs for older teens and adults would reduce child poverty by 11 percent.
- Moderately raising the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would reduce child poverty by 9 percent. (Expanding state and local EITCs would also reduce child poverty.)
At an annual cost of $77 billion, these and the report’s other recommendations would directly benefit 43.3 million children — that is, most U.S. children — while lifting 6.6 million of them out of poverty, the Urban Institute found.
Reducing child poverty has widespread benefits, the report explains. Children who grow up poor are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely in adulthood to be poor, suffer from poor health, and become involved in the criminal justice system; they also are less productive workers. Such problems cost the nation half a trillion dollars a year.