Investing in infants

We provide new evidence that cash transfers following the birth of a first child can have large and long-lasting effects on that child’s outcomes. We take advantage of the January 1 birthdate cutoff for U.S. child-related tax benefits, which results in families of otherwise similar children receiving substantially different refunds during the first year of life. For the average low-income single-child family in our sample this difference amounts to roughly $1,300, or 10 percent of income. Using the universe of administrative federal tax data in selected years, we show that this transfer in infancy increases young adult earnings by at least 1 to 2 percent, with larger effects for males. These effects show up at earlier ages in terms of improved math and reading test scores and a higher likelihood of high school graduation. The observed effects on shorter-run parental outcomes suggest that additional liquidity during the critical window following the birth of a first child leads to persistent increases in family income that likely contribute to the downstream effects on children’s outcomes. The longer-term effects on child earnings alone are large enough that the transfer pays for itself through subsequent increases in federal income tax revenue.

Here is the full paper by Andrew C. Barr, Jonathan Eggleston, and Alexander A. Smith.


Comments for this post are closed