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Could new poverty data renew push for expanding the child tax credit?

The poverty rate among children declined dramatically in 2021 amid an expanded child tax credit that President Biden hopes to bring back.
Could new poverty data renew push for expanding the child tax credit?
Posted at 6:44 AM, Sep 14, 2023

A new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates a major jump in 2022 in the number of impoverished children in the nation. 

According to the data, the supplemental poverty measure among children under age 18 more than doubled, from 5.2% in 2021 to 12.4% in 2022. Among the general population, supplemental poverty increased by 4.6 percentage points to 12.4% in 2022. 

The supplemental poverty measure differs from the official poverty measure, which was largely unchanged in 2022. The official poverty measure only takes into account cash resources, while the supplemental poverty measure includes both cash and noncash benefits and subtracts necessary expenses like taxes and medical expenses. 

Unlike the official poverty measure, the supplemental poverty measure takes into account tax rebates and changes in taxation policies. 

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One major reason for the increase in poverty among children was the expiration of the expanded child tax credit. In 2021,  the per child amount increased from $2,000 to $3,000. For children up to age 5, the credit increased to $3,600 per child.

Couples earning up to $150,000 per year, heads of household earning up to $112,500 per year, and individuals earning up to $75,000 annually were eligible for the full credit.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the child tax credit kept 5.3 million people out of poverty in 2021. In 2022, with the child tax credit returning to its normal levels, it kept 2.4 million people out of poverty. Essentially, by expanding the child tax credit, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates nearly 3 million were kept out of poverty in 2021.

The Census Bureau says that Social Security is by far the most impactful program to reduce poverty. Social Security alone reduced poverty by 28.9 million Americans in 2022. 

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The expansion of SNAP benefits and free school lunch programs continue to have a sizable role in fighting poverty, reducing poverty levels by 5.1 million.

However, some necessary expenses increase the number of people experiencing poverty. Work expenses caused 3.6 million to go into poverty, while FICA caused 4.1 million to enter poverty. Medical expenses caused 7.1 million Americans to become impoverished, the Census Bureau says.

The new data provided some political ammunition for President Joe Biden to renew efforts to expand the child tax credit. 

"Today’s Census report shows the dire consequences of congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend the enhanced child tax credit, even as they advance costly corporate tax cuts," President Biden said. "We cut child poverty by nearly half to record lows for all children in this nation largely by expanding the child tax credit."

Although President Biden placed blame on Republicans for blocking efforts to expand the child tax credit, Republicans led a push in 2017 to increase the child tax credit to its current levels. 

While some Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio have also called on expanding the child tax credit, Rubio said the expansions should include work requirements 

"We’ve seen the destructive consequences that follow when the government pays people not to work," Rubio said in 2021. "We need to take common sense steps to support working parents, not re-create the failed welfare state.”  

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