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Study found Cash Payments from 2021 Child Tax Credit Extension points to Improved Infant and Maternal Health

The 2021-22 Michigan Applied Public Policy Research (MAPPR) grants awardees completed their research and it is of great interest to citizens as well as policymakers. One study conducted by MSU researchers focused on how the 2021 Child Tax credit that was expanded due to the coronavirus impacted the health of mothers and infants.


The United States has some of the worst pregnancy outcomes and maternal health in the developed world. US Maternal mortality (death) is the highest in the developed world, over twice the rate of France and Canada, the next highest countries. There are also health iniquities in pregnancy outcomes in the U.S. according to the NVSR 2019 Infant Mortality report: Infant mortality is more than twice as high for Black mothers compared to White mothers (10.6% vs 4.5%, as of 2019)3. Health iniquities are when groups who historically or currently have less power, privilege, and resources have worse health outcomes. Researchers are looking to see how cash payment programs can be beneficial to both maternal and infant health and in promoting equity.

Other Cash Transfer Policy Impacts

Researchers conducted a review of 25 articles reviewing 11 cash transfer programs implemented in the U.S. or Canada. The evaluation focused on a measure of maternal health, pregnancy, or infant health. Findings showed most programs targeted low-income families and maternal and infant health improved because of the additional funds.

2021 Cash Transfer Expansion

The existing credit was increased as a part of the American Rescue Plan, which was a grant program 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 articles analyzed in this study didn’t look at the direct effect of the tax credit on health, but more on the benefits that it provided to families. This leads researchers to theorize about the indirect way maternal and infant health is impacted.

What Effect do Payments Have on Equity?

Few studies looked at the equitable impacts of cash transfer policies, but they did report on different findings between different racial, ethnic, educational, or income groups. Some interesting findings were:

  • Nutritional improvement from the Child Tax Credit Expansion was similar in Black, Latino, and White low-income families.
  • Better birth outcomes were observed across all groups receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • 3 in 10 households did not receive the Child Tax Credit or were unaware of receiving it.

The researchers calculated how Advance payments were used in different minority groups. They found the lowest income households, earning less than $30k, had the highest spending on essentials; food, housing, and bills.

Why is this important?

Evaluating the Child Tax Credit Expansion helps better understand the needs of citizens. Through this research they can shed light on the needs of citizens, helping with the development of policies in the future.

To read more about the policy brief click here (.pdf)
To learn more about MAPPR: