We Can Eliminate Child Poverty

Reasons to be Cheerful

Twice a year, in North Carolina, Eastern Cherokee families receive a check in the mail for their share of the profits from the casinos owned by their tribe. The first of these casinos opened in 1995, and since then, researchers have been able to study the effects of the cash infusions on the families, many of whom were previously poor, and compare them to neighboring families who didn’t receive the cash. From an academic and scientific point of view the researchers lucked upon both an experimental group and a control group. 

What they’ve found is amazing: The children of the families receiving cash have fewer drug and alcohol problems, fewer mental health issues, fewer arrests and are 15 percent more likely to finish school. Non-Cherokee families living nearby, who don’t receive any cash, are the convenient control group — their environment and situation is pretty much the same, and sure enough, their kids have not experienced similar improvements in outcomes.

Based on the encouraging news from these communities and others, the U.S. is implementing a nationwide system of cash support for low-income parents as part of the stimulus plan that was passed last week. 

Under the plan’s new Child Tax Credit, the vast majority of parents will receive up to $3,600 per child each year in what is, in effect, a major expansion of the existing and successful Earned Income Tax Credit. As currently designed, it will last for only a year, though already many in congress have indicated they will seek to make it permanent.

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