Jane Waldfogel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children’s and Youth Problems at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, testified before a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress on “Making it More Affordable to Raise a Family” on September 10, 2019. The Joint Economic Committee has been tasked since 1946 with reviewing economic conditions and recommending improvements in economic policy. It is chaired by Senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah); the Vice Chair is Representative Carolyn Maloney (Democrat, New York). The other individuals who presented testimonies at the hearing were Lyman Stone, Adjunct Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Ryan Bourne, R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute, and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO/Executive Director and Co-Founder of MomsRising.
Waldfogel’s testimony outlines the scope of the child poverty problem in the United States, identifies public policies that have successfully helped to abate the problem, and suggests a way forward with new policies. Waldfogel cites statistics that “…11.5 million children (nearly 16% of all children) are poor, and another 27 million (37%) have incomes just above the poverty line.” Among the policies that have helped lift American children out of poverty are the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Waldfogel underlines the importance of paid family and medical leave and access to high quality child care, which can improve child well-being, cognitive and social development, particularly for disadvantaged children. Among Waldfogel’s recommendations to the committee were extending the reach of paid family and medical leave (currently only legal in eight states and the District of Columbia), expanding access to quality affordable child care, and introducing a universal child allowance.
Waldfogel has written extensively on early childhood education and the impact of public policies on child and family well-being. RSF is a longtime supporter of Waldfogel’s scholarship. She is author of the RSF book, Britain’s War on Poverty (2010), co-author of the RSF book, Too Many Children Left Behind: The U.S. Achievement Gap in Comparative Perspective (2015), and co-editor of Securing the Future: Investing in Children from Birth to College (2005) and Steady Gains and Stalled Progress: Inequality and the Black-White Test Score Gap (2008). Waldfogel served as a visiting scholar during the 2013-2014 academic year, and has received RSF grant support for her research projects.