Children’s HealthWatch Statement on Child Poverty & Averting a Government Shutdown

This month, the U.S. Census Bureau released new data that showed the rate of children living in poverty more than doubled in 2022, from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022. These data come from the 2022 Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for non-monetary benefits, temporary cash assistance, and tax credits. Alarmingly, these new numbers mark the first increase in the overall Supplemental Poverty Measure since its development in 2010.

We at Children’s HealthWatch see firsthand in our data that Congress’s decision not to extend the advance Child Tax Credit was a key driver of this drastic increase. The recent Census report confirms our research, demonstrating both the positive effects of the Child Tax Credit expansion for children and families and the harm of its subsequent expiration. We and other researchers saw when families had more resources, they could purchase more and healthier food, were more able to pay their rent, and purchase the things their children needed, like clothing or age-appropriate toys and books, which all have long-term, significant benefits for the health, growth, and overall well-being of children. Despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the advance Child Tax Credit’s positive impact, these improvements disappeared after the expanded credit’s expiration.

Following these studies and the new Census data, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released a report on evidence-based approaches to ‘Reducing Intergenerational Poverty’. The report recommends investments across multiple domains, including expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit, making the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules more inclusive of immigrants, and investments in housing support, which we commend and support. Despite NASEM previously endorsing the Child Tax Credit as an essential strategy to reduce child poverty, an approach further underscored by US Census data, the strict criteria of only including studies that offered long-run causal evidence overlooked recent rigorous evidence on policies like early childhood education and cash transfers in their role improving health and reducing poverty.

Now the looming government shutdown overshadows evidence of the anti-poverty impact of investment in safety net programs – putting the health of babies, toddlers, and families across the nation in jeopardy in favor of political posturing. A shutdown would

almost immediately halt the delivery of nutrition assistance to mothers and young children through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. An extended shutdown would also cause disruptions in essential, evidence-based programs like SNAP, childcare, and housing.

After 25 years of tracking the real-time experiences of families with young children and conducting rigorous policy-relevant research that demonstrates the vitally important nature of public supports and tax credits for child health, it is clear that our leaders are making a policy choice to allow child poverty to rise. This decision unequivocally jeopardizes the future prosperity of our children and communities. Looking forward, we will relentlessly continue our work to achieve health equity for young children and their families and partner with Congress to restore the advance Child Tax Credit, protect benefits from disruption, and strengthen our social safety net.