Michigan State University faculty and graduate students in the Colleges of Human Medicine and Social Science, are investigating a potentially beneficial link between the 2021 Child Tax Credit (CTC) Extension and infant and maternal health. The 2021-22 Michigan Applied Public Policy Research (MAPPR) funded this research through a pilot grant.
Maternal and infant health outcomes, including birth outcomes, infant mortality, and maternal mortality are higher in the United States than in our peer high-income nations, with rates of these outcomes 2-3 times higher for Black and Indigenous compared to White mothers and infants. Researchers were looking to see how cash credit programs could be beneficial toward providing equity and lowering rates of maternal and infant mortality. Cash payment policies have already shown promise in terms of improving health, nutrition, and rates of poverty.
The existing child tax credit was increased as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was federal legislation created in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The new changes in 2021 included:
- Children 17 years old were eligible for payment
- Payments increased to 3,600 for children< 6 years old and $3,000 for each child 6-17 years old.
- Advance payments were provided
- The credit was made fully refundable
The researchers used survey data to examine who reported receiving the payment and what they spent it on. They found that the lowest income households, earning less than $30k, had the highest spending on essentials; food, housing, and bills as did Hispanic households.
The research team found that previous cash payment programs have been beneficial to both maternal and infant health. Thus, the 2021 Child Tax Credit expansion may also show such benefits. Other researchers around the US have already found a direct link between overall wellbeing and the 2021 CTC expansion, with improvements in nutrition, reduced child poverty and a good cost per benefit ratio being evident. The MSU team is currently conducting ongoing research to evaluate the impacts of the CTC on maternal and infant health. Evaluating the 2021 CTC will hopefully benefit in the decision-making process for similar policies in the future.