Even as federal and state policymakers consider cutting back programs that boost the incomes of working-poor families, two researchers report evidence that poverty among young children not only slows them in school but also shrinks their earnings as adults.
This suggests that while cutting programs like Earned Income Tax credits (EITCs) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) may produce short-term budget savings, it also could generate significant costs for the nation down the road.
The new article, by Greg J. Duncan and Katherine Magnuson, is particularly notable because Duncan is one of the most respected researchers on the consequences of childhood poverty and is known for being particularly cautious in drawing policy conclusions from academic research. Two key points from the article stand out:
“[G]reater policy attention should be given to remediating situations involving deep and persistent poverty occurring early in childhood,” Duncan and Magnuson conclude. They specifically recommend that federal and state policymakers:
Duncan and Magnuson urge policymakers to ensure that such sanctions and other TANF regulations do not deny benefits to families with very young children: “Not only do young children appear to be most vulnerable to the consequences of deep poverty, but mothers with very young children are also least able to support themselves through employment in the labor market.” This research suggests that other potential policy changes within TANF, such as establishing harsher time limits or significantly reducing benefits, could also harm young children.
In short, reducing help to low-income working families to save money now would be penny-wise but pound-foolish.