Who Benefits From the Child Tax Credit?
The Child Tax Credit (CTC) provides a cash transfer of up to $2,000 per child under age 17 to millions of families in the United States. Using the Current Population Survey, we examine the aggregate effects and distributional implications of the rules governing children’s eligibility for the credit. While approximately 90% of all children qualify for at least a partial CTC, we document striking disparities in eligibility by income and race. The vast majority of children living in households in the bottom decile of the national AGI distribution are completely ineligible for the CTC and the majority of filers in the bottom thirty percent are eligible only for a partial credit. In contrast, virtually all children living in households in the top half of the income distribution qualify for the full credit amount. Approximately three-quarters of white and Asian children are eligible for the full CTC, compared to only about half of Black and Hispanic children. We use our results to estimate the distributional effects of a range of reforms to the CTC eligibility rules. Our results suggest that reforming the credit to include a larger share of children would more evenly distribute the credit’s benefits across children of different races and incomes.
For helpful comments, we are grateful to Len Burman, Margaret Jones, Elaine Maag, and Janet McCubbin. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.