Spotlight Exclusives

Bennet Expresses Hope for Bipartisan Compromise on Child Tax Credit

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

A growing body of research has found the expanded Child Tax Credit is “a pro-family, pro-work, and I would argue, pro-democracy policy,” Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) said Tuesday, expressing optimism that a bipartisan compromise can be reached this year to restore the benefit.

“Over the last few weeks, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have said the Child Tax Credit is an area where we can find bipartisan agreement in a tax package later this year,” Bennet said. “I could not agree more. I’ve always said that I believe that at the end of the day, we’re going reach a bipartisan agreement on this.”

Bennet spoke during a webinar hosted by Spotlight and American Policy Ventures, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation, to discuss the latest findings from the Baby’s First Years (BFY) project, the first of its kind randomized control trial study in the United States to assess the impact of cash payments on key issues of children’s development and family well-being.

The study “has yielded some really exciting findings,” said JooYeun Chang, director for Child Well-Being at the Doris Duke Foundation. “It’s our hope that research like this will lead to the public will and public policies that invest more in our youngest children, which not only benefit them, their families, but our nation.”

In a conversation moderated by American Policy Ventures Co-Founder and Co-President Liam deClive-Low, Baby’s First Years researchers outlined the most recent findings from the groundbreaking project, in which 1,000 low-income mothers and their newborns were recruited in several ethnically and geographically diverse communities. Mothers receive either $333 each month ($4,000 each year), or $20 each month ($240 each year), for the first 52 months of the children’s lives with the first payments occurring shortly after the baby’s birth.

Kimberly Noble, professor of Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said that after enrollment, “we’ve been following up with the families every year around the children’s birthdate. And so, in this way, by measuring the differential impact in our two groups will be able to assess the causal impact of poverty reduction on children’s cognitive, emotional, and brain development, physical and mental health, as well as wellbeing and family life.”

Some of the early results Noble said the project is seeing include:

  • Infants in the high cash gift group are showing more fast-paced and more very fast-paced brain activities compared to the infants of the low cash gift group. This pattern is particularly strong in the areas of the brain that support thinking and learning.
  • Moms in the high cash gift group are spending more on child focused expenditures, things like books and toys.
  • Moms in the high cash gift group are reporting significantly higher amounts of time spent engaged in parent-child activities, such as reading and playing.
  • Moms in the high cash gift group are reporting that their children are consuming fresh produce at greater rates.
  • Participants in both groups have shown a low frequency of spending on tobacco and alcohol.
  • The study has shown no statistically detectable effect of participants cutting back on employment across the first three years of the cash gifts.

In terms of the study’s potential impact on policy, Lisa Gennetian, professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, Affiliate of the Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, said the study “gives us a framework and some evidence that we hope will have, will be useful to many folks on the impact of predictable income support starting at birth of child.”

For insight on how these findings might impact the debate on Capitol Hill, the webinar turned to two economic experts—Urban Institute senior fellow Elaine Maag and Harvard Kennedy School fellow Aparna Mathur, a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers in the Trump administration—to offer insights.

Maag said that while the BFY study did not offer definitive data on the impact of a cash benefit for mothers and children on participation in the workforce—a key point of debate in Congress—it represents “one more piece of information that suggests that overall, a relatively small payment in someone’s annual income is not enough to cause significant employment losses.”

Mathur said she was struck by the study’s emphasis on the benefits of a predictable, cash benefit that avoids some of the uncertainties and bureaucracy of the current set of safety net supports. “I really think it speaks to the idea that we could be doing much more if we’re really serious about helping families in need. How do we redesign the U.S. social safety net so that we give a little bit more cash to people?”

In his opening remarks, Bennet noted that unlike many of the constituencies that Congress makes laws about, “children have no lobbyists.” As the event closed, Noble underlined that sentiment as a key takeaway for all sides of the child and family policy debate.

“I think it is so important for us to think about how our policies and supports benefit children, who are the future of our society. They aren’t making the choices about the circumstances that they’re living in, and yet they are at the future of what we have to look forward to. I can’t think of anything that’s more important than developing programs and policies that support children.”

Watch the event recording here. 

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