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Kathryn A. Edwards

America’s Endangered Solution to Child Poverty

The expanded child tax credit was one of the best-designed anti-poverty policies in decades.

Poverty isn’t what it used to be.

Poverty isn’t what it used to be.

Photo: Three Lions/Getty Images

The expanded child tax credit lapsed in December as the cost of President Joe Biden’s spending plans became a sticking point in Congress. Yet amid the debate over whether its success in reducing poverty is worth its large price tag, many are missing a crucial feature: It was uniquely well-designed to address the increasingly precarious economic reality that millions of Americans experience.

Government programs tend to put people in boxes: elderly, disabled, veteran, unemployed, single parent. The most problematic of these labels often overlaps the others: poor. Most programs are means-tested, based on reported income during application, to direct money to those we perceive as the neediest.