Volume 30

Fighting Child Poverty in the United States: The Universal Child Benefit

by Steven Jessen-Howard

More than ten million children in the United States live in poverty, largely because of the country’s relative lack of investment in children and families. Child poverty is associated with higher rates of child maltreatment and contributes to a host of outcomes that harm children and society. Recent legislation that increased the size and scope of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) demonstrated the power of cash assistance policies to reduce child poverty. However, implementation issues prevented many of the poorest families from receiving benefits, and the CTC expansion expired at the end of 2021. This Note proposes a Universal Child Benefit (UCB) that would provide $700 monthly for children under age six and $400 monthly for children ages six to seventeen. All families would automatically receive the benefit through the Social Security Administration (SSA). The UCB would drastically reduce child poverty and improve child well-being in the U.S.

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