2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit Boosts Adult Health and Household Food Security: Study

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The Child Tax Credit Expansion, set to expire at the end of 2021, was not extended because lawmakers were concerned that the credit was too generous, especially to families with lower incomes with little tax burden, and that there was no corresponding job requirement. A new study released on June 24 in JAMA Health Forum could contribute to the discussion surrounding the policy’s future, according to Dr. Jordan Rook, the study’s principal investigator and fellow in UCLA’s National Clinician Scholars Programme. 

According to Rook, also an orthopedic surgeon resident at the David Geffen College of Medicine at UCLA, cash transfer programs like the 2021 Child Tax Credit expansion may be effective instruments in enhancing families’ wellness, well-being, and nutrition. As they support and discuss the future of the policy, consumers, the media, and legislators can be guided by evidence like this. 

Based on the research team, around one in six American families with children are currently poor, which harms their health and shortens their life expectancy. Before the pandemic, families with qualified incomes may receive a maximum of $2000 per child aged 16 or younger under the Child Tax Credit. According to the pandemic-era American Recovery Plan, enacted on March 11, 2021, the credit was raised to $3,600 for children under five and $3,000 for children between the ages of six and seventeen. 

The equivalent of $250 to $300 for each child monthly in monthly checks; families were qualified for half of this sum. Because the credit was completely refundable, all low-income households with children qualified for it regardless of their employment status or income. 

The researchers used data from around 39,500 participants in the National Health Interview Survey, which took place from January 2019 to December 2021. They discovered that 88% of credit-eligible persons reported having food security or having access to enough food to meet basic nutritional needs, and 60% of credit-eligible adults indicated excellent or excellent health before the start of the monthly payments. 55% of ineligible individuals claimed their health was excellent or very good, and 89% said they had access to food. 

They compared modifications to nutrition and health among credit-eligible families and credit-ineligible families to evaluate the impact of the Child Tax Credit monthly payments using a study design known as a “difference-in-differences” technique. They estimate that eligible persons were 1.9 percent more likely to report having access to adequate food security using this method and were 3 percentage points more likely to indicate excellent or perfect health than non-eligible adults after the payments started. 

Rook says, “If we use the conservative figure of a single adult per family, this implies better health for 1.08 million adults and newly discovered availability of food for 684,000 households.” Because of this pandemic-era legislation, these adjustments could significantly improve nutrition and health for tens of thousands of US families. 

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