New Policy Roadmap Recommends State EITCs as an Effective Prenatal-to-3 Policy

By: Juan Tirado

A new policy roadmap highlights state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) as part of an effective prenatal-to-3 care system.

The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center recently released a policy roadmap that highlights eight prenatal-to-3 policy goals that all states should meet to create the safe, healthy, and stable environments children and families need to thrive. To achieve these goals, the policy roadmap identifies five policies and six strategies that support the healthy development of infants and toddlers, while reducing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities that negatively affect them. Among these policies are state-level EITCs.  According to the roadmap, because only working tax filers are eligible for the EITC, it helps reduce poverty by providing lump-sum income while also incentivizing work. And because many EITC-eligible families are headed by working single mothers, and women of color in particular, the credit can also help reduce racial and ethnic income disparities.

The EITC can help states achieve three of the Prenatal-to-3 policy goals; parents’ ability to work, sufficient household resources, and healthy and equitable births. However, according to the roadmap, state EITCs must be refundable and worth at least 10 percent of the federal credit to be effective at achieving these goals. Of the 31 states and territories with a state-level credit, only 18 meet this threshold.

The roadmap also includes state data interactives where users can see how states fare on each policy and strategy. The roadmap will serve as a resource that tracks the status of each state’s prenatal-to-3 systems and monitor their progress in adopting and implementing these policies, improving the overall wellbeing of children and families in the state, and reducing racial and ethnic disparities in their care systems.

At the Impact Center’s policy summit this week, researchers highlighted the need for economic supports that allow parents to both work and care for their children. They also talked about how solutions such as the EITC are often left out of policies regarding infants and toddlers.  Cynthia Osborne, Ph.D., director of the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, said, “State EITCs have a substantial impact on reducing disparities and adverse birth outcomes, and even a larger impact than some programs that are directly targeted at birth outcomes.” This new roadmap adds to the growing body of research highlighting the EITC’s effectiveness for low-income families with young children, and maternal and infant health.

Explore the full policy roadmap here.