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A bipartisan report released today on the challenges and opportunities facing children in America stresses the need to rebalance national investments toward children.

The consensus report, “Rebalancing: Children First,” is released by the American Enterprise Institute–Brookings Institution Working Group on Childhood in the United States. More than three years in the making, the report lays out actionable, budget-neutral policies for a number of arenas that will improve the life of American children. The report covers facts, research evidence and policy priorities in domains that are crucial to children’s well-being and future: household resources, family structure and stability, early development, health, education and the teenage years.

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Lisa Gennetian

The working group found significant agreement across many proposals: increasing the generosity of the Earned Income Tax Credit — a proven pro-work and antipoverty program; making the Child Tax Credit available to households with no earnings; expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 20 percent for families with children ages 5 and younger; supporting policies to strengthen and encourage marriage; and providing a broader system of support for child health and education. These budget-neutral proposals are paid for by redirecting resources away from programs benefitting wealthier adults, corporate welfare including agriculture subsidies and tax enforcement.

While not every working group member agrees with each policy proposal, each member has endorsed the report in its entirety and stands by the evidence-based recommendations potential to improve the well-being of children in the U.S.

Lisa Gennetian, Pritzker Professor of Early Learning Policy Studies at Duke Sanford and affiliate of the Center for Child and Family Policy, was one of the members of the working group and acknowledged the challenge of finding consensus in some areas, particularly because there is not always one way forward for supporting the success for each child.

“Empirical evidence that points in certain directions reflects a ‘typical or average’ child, but no one child is typical or average,” explains Gennetian. “This contributes to creative tensions around how policy supports successful pathways and how to prioritize those investments. For example, is it cash? Is it education and information campaigns?  Is it home visiting or early education programs? Or rather, is it all of these things?”

“To further add to this complexity,” Gennetian points out, “children’s well-being is an accumulation of investments that start early and cascade as children grow and develop; this holistic view is hard to map onto to any one policy.”

Nevertheless, Gennetian lauds the group for finding areas of consensus where there is clear recommendations for action to be taken, especially actions that provide economic cushion to children in low-income households including making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable.

Led by the working group co-chairs Michael Strain, director of Economic Policy Studies at AEI, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, nonresident senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, the group includes Natasha Cabrera (University of Maryland), David Deming (Harvard University), Veronique de Rugy (George Mason University), Lisa Gennetian (Duke University), Ron Haskins (Brookings Institution), Dayna Bowen Matthew (George Washington University), Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill (Brookings Institution), Kosali Simon (Indiana University), Katharine Stevens (Center on Child and Family Policy), Ryan Streeter (AEI), James Sullivan (University of Notre Dame), and W. Bradford Wilcox (University of Virginia and AEI).

For the full report, please click here. Media queries regarding the report: MediaServices@aei.org, Sutton.Houser@aei.org, sarah.brantley@duke.edu

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