BEYOND THE NUMBERS
As Mother’s Day Approaches, a Proposal to Help Millions of Mothers and Their Children
The approach of Mother’s Day is a good time to remember that legislation from Senators Sherrod Brown, Michael Bennet, Dick Durbin, and Ron Wyden, which another 42 senators support, would help 23 million mothers and 49 million children by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Known as the Working Families Tax Relief Act, the bill would expand the EITC for families with children by roughly 25 percent. It would make the CTC fully refundable so children in the poorest households would receive the full credit, and it would create a larger, fully refundable Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) for children under age 6. Today, the CTC provides little or no help to millions of children and families with low incomes — the children who need it most.
The bill would help moms in every state (see table), across all races and ethnicities, and in all types of family situations pay the bills while boosting their children’s life prospects:
- For a single mom of a 4-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter who makes $20,000 as a home health aide, the bill would raise her CTC by $2,210 and her EITC by about $1,460, for a total gain of about $3,670.
- For a married couple with two daughters, ages 5 and 8, in which the mom makes $17,000 selling clothes at a local department store and her husband also makes $17,000 as an elementary school custodian, the bill would increase their EITC by about $1,460. They would also receive an additional $1,240 from the CTC changes, for a total gain of about $2,700.
- For a married couple in which the mom stays home to care for their young son and her husband makes $45,000 as an auto mechanic, the bill would increase their EITC by about $880. They would also receive an additional $1,000 from the YCTC, for a total gain of about $1,880.
While the bill would help a broad swath of low- and moderate-income families, it prioritizes helping parents and their children with the lowest incomes. Its impact on deep poverty among children — that is, on children who live below half of the poverty line — would be dramatic. It would lift 1.4 million children out of deep poverty, reducing the deep child poverty rate by 40 percent (from 5 percent to 3 percent).
In fact, a National Academy of Sciences committee that Congress charged with recommending ways to reduce child poverty recently made a similar policy a centerpiece of its package of anti-poverty proposals. “[T]he weight of the causal evidence indicates,” the committee concluded, “that income poverty itself causes negative child outcomes, especially when it begins in early childhood and/or persists throughout a large share of a child’s life. Many programs that alleviate poverty … have been shown to improve child well-being.”
The better outcomes that are linked with stronger income assistance include healthier birth weights, lower maternal stress, better childhood nutrition, higher school enrollment, higher reading and math test scores, higher high school graduation rates, less use of drugs and alcohol, more positive behavior, and higher rates of college entry, the committee noted.
|Number of Mothers, Working Mothers, and Children Who Would Benefit From Working Families Tax Relief Act, by State|
|State||Number of Mothers||Number of Working Mothers||Number of Children|
|District of Columbia||37,000||25,000||81,000|
Note: Number of individuals includes children.
Source: CBPP estimates based on 2015-2017 American Community Survey data and March 2018 Current Population Survey data.