Respect Poverty

Without child tax credit payments, January child poverty rate could increase up to 17 percent

In this July 26, 2021 photo, Brianne Walker leaves A Place To Grow daycare with her 3-year-old daughter, Jeannette, in Brentwood, N.H. Walker and her family have qualified for the expanded child tax credit, part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.  Elise Amendola/ AP

Story at a glance

  • Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy released a new analysis of how much the advanced child tax credit program helped the U.S. child poverty rate.
  • The program ended last month, and the center predicted that without the payments, January’s rate of child poverty could increase from 12.1 percent to 17.1 percent.
  • On its own, the advanced child tax credit program reduced monthly child poverty by close to 30 percent.

Thousands of families relied upon a special child tax credit program implemented as a COVID-19 measure last year, using the money to pay for housing, food, education and more, but those payments stopped in 2022 and could result in millions of children falling into poverty.  

Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy released a new analysis that calculated that the sixth and final child tax credit that was sent to families in December kept 3.7 million children from poverty. One month later, that loss of income could increase the child poverty rate from 12.1 percent to 17.1 percent. 

That would be the highest monthly child poverty rate since December 2020. 

Under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the federal government’s advanced child tax credit program increased benefit levels, expanded the eligibility for families with the lowest incomes and paid out benefits in monthly installments. The program began distributing funds in July, up until December 2021. 


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According to the center, as of December 2021 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has paid out six months of advanced child tax credit payments worth up to $250 per child between the ages of 6 to 17 and up to $300 per child under the age of 6.  

On its own, the program reduced monthly child poverty by close to 30 percent, according to the center. 

Payments reached more than 61 million children in the U.S., across more than 36 million households. Under current law, families will still receive the balance of their 2021 child tax credit, the value of the remaining six months, in a single payment at tax time in 2022. 

Almost every month beginning in July 2021, the number of children kept from poverty consistently went up, with November seeing the highest rate of 3.8 million children saved from poverty due to the advanced child tax credit payments. In December, the center estimated that the payments contributed to a 5-percentage point reduction in child poverty, compared to what poverty in December 2021 would have been without the program. 

Children of color felt the biggest decrease; the first payment issued reduced Black child poverty by 21 percent, and the sixth and final payment caused Black child poverty to fall by 25 percent. 

For Latino children, the first payment reduced child poverty by 25 percent and the sixth payment on its own lowered child poverty by 30 percent.  

The center also noted that the payments buffered families’ finances as they continue to live through the coronavirus pandemic, increasing their ability to buy food and meet other basic needs. Not only was the rate of child poverty reduced, but so was food insufficiency and other hardships, all without negative employment effects. 

That’s notable, as the advanced child tax credit program has not been extended for 2022 after receiving pushback from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who has previously said he wants additional stipulations attached to the program, like requiring parents to work and to limit payments to families making $60,000 or less annually.   

“Don’t you think, if we’re going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?,” argued Manchin while appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” in September.   

Growing up in poverty causes lasting harm, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noting that poverty can bring unstable housing, frequent moves, inadequate nutrition and high family stress. All of that can often take a heavy toll on children, leading to lower levels of educational attainment, lower earnings, higher likelihood of getting arrested and poor health in adulthood. 


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