One of the most salient indicators of racial and economic inequality is in the allocation of wealth and its highly disparate distribution by race and ethnicity in the United States. The policy of universal infant trust funds, or baby bonds, has recently gained traction. Using longitudinal wealth data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study demonstrates the policy's potential to reduce the black-white wealth gap at the median and to reduce the concentration of wealth held by the top decile.
A universal child allowance is another policy idea targeted towards children and families that has drawn attention in recent years. In many developed countries, a universal child allowance is viewed as a core element of national social policy, and one that effectively reduces child poverty rates. But a universal benefit for children does not exist in the United States today. This paper demonstrates how existing tax policy, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC), may serve as a mechanism to bring the country closer to a universal child benefit, and how such a reform would substantially reduce the rate of child poverty and racial disparities in child poverty.
Nearly all children attend school from the age of five, but school does not address the need for preschool child care before the age of five, nor the need for after school care for older children. Child care expenses are also a major driver of the budgets of middle- and lower-income families, making efforts to reduce the costs of quality child care an important target of policy intervention. Numerous new policy proposals aim to move toward universal, subsidized child care. This paper examines the impacts of such proposals within a family budget perspective, highlighting how new child care policies could ease child care burden reduce gaps in care and affordability along economic and racial and ethnic lines.
Finally, a striking shortcoming of the current US policy framework is the lack of paid family and medical leave, which virtually all other rich and middle income nations provide. This too is an active area of policy this election season. This paper analyzes the likely impacts of a national paid family and medical leave policy on the wellbeing of children and families and on racial disparities in wellbeing. It harnesses data from five states that have now enacted paid family and medical leave and shows how such policies can raise overall levels of leave-taking and employment, improve child and maternal health, especially for populations currently left out of policy coverage.
Taken together, the four papers in the proposed symposium highlight how bold new policy ideas can help tackle persistent gaps in poverty and inequality along both racial and economic lines.