Association of State-Level Earned Income Tax Credits With Rates of Reported Child Maltreatment, 2004-2017

Child Maltreat. 2021 Jan 19;1077559520987302. doi: 10.1177/1077559520987302. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Poverty is an important predictor of child maltreatment. Social policies that strengthen the economic security of low-income families, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), may reduce child maltreatment by impeding the pathways through which poverty leads to it. We used variations in the presence and generosity of supplementary EITCs offered at the state level and administrative child maltreatment data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) to examine the effect of EITC policies on state-level rates of child maltreatment from 2004 through 2017. Two-way fixed effects models indicated that a 10-percentage point increase in the generosity of refundable state EITC benefits was associated with 241 fewer reports of neglect per 100,000 children (95% Confidence Interval [CI] [-449, -33]). An increase in EITC generosity was associated with fewer reports of neglect both among children ages 0-5 (-324 per 100,000; 95% CI [-582, -65]) and children ages 6-17 (-201 per 100,000; 95% CI [-387, -15]). Findings also suggested associations between the EITC and reductions in other types of maltreatment (physical abuse, emotional abuse); however, those did not gain statistical significance. Economic support policies may reduce the risk of child maltreatment, especially neglect, and improve child wellbeing.

Keywords: child maltreatment; economics; policy.