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Child Cash Benefits and Family Expenditures: Evidence from the National Child Benefit

Listed author(s):
  • Lauren E. Jones
  • Kevin S. Milligan
  • Mark Stabile

A vast literature has examined the impact of family income on the health and development outcomes of children. Income may improve child outcomes through two mechanisms. First, income may improve development outcomes if it improves a family’s ability to purchase direct inputs into child education and health production such as reading material, educational equipment, and health care. Second, by reducing stress and conflict, additional income helps to foster an environment more conducive to healthy child development, regardless of the nature of specific expenditures. In this paper, we exploit changes in refundable tax benefit income in Canada to study these questions. Importantly, our approach allows us to make stronger causal inferences than has been possible in existing studies. Using variation in child benefits across province, time, and family type, we study expenditure patterns of families receiving child benefits. Our findings suggest that additional income may improve outcomes through both mechanisms: some benefit income is spent on direct education and health inputs, while some is spent on everyday items likely to improve the general conditions children face. Additionally, some families reduce spending on risky behavior items. Spending responses to benefit generosity appear to vary by income.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 21101.

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Date of creation: Apr 2015
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21101
Note: CH PE
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  1. Brian Baugh & Itzhak Ben-David & Hoonsuk Park, 2014. "Disentangling Financial Constraints, Precautionary Savings, and Myopia: Household Behavior Surrounding Federal Tax Returns," NBER Working Papers 19783, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hilary Hoynes & Doug Miller & David Simon, 2015. "Income, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Infant Health," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 172-211, February.
  3. Andrew Goodman-Bacon & Leslie McGranahan, 2008. "How do EITC recipients spend their refunds?," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q II, pages 17-32.
  4. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
  5. Garry Barrett & Peter Levell & Kevin Milligan, 2014. "A Comparison of Micro and Macro Expenditure Measures across Countries Using Differing Survey Methods," NBER Chapters,in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, pages 263-286 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Reagan Baughman & Stacy Dickert-Conlin, 2009. "The earned income tax credit and fertility," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 22(3), pages 537-563, July.
  7. Kevin Milligan & Mark Stabile, 2011. "Do Child Tax Benefits Affect the Well-Being of Children? Evidence from Canadian Child Benefit Expansions," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 175-205, August.
  8. Janet Currie & Mark Stabile & Phongsack Manivong & Leslie L. Roos, 2010. "Child Health and Young Adult Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(3).
  9. McGranahan, Leslie & Schanzenbach, Diane Whitmore, 2013. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and Food Consumption Patterns," Working Paper Series WP-2013-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  10. Marianne Bertrand & Adair Morse, 2013. "Trickle-Down Consumption," NBER Working Papers 18883, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  12. Christopher D. Carroll & Thomas F. Crossley & John Sabelhaus, 2014. "Introduction to "Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures"," NBER Chapters,in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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