How should we understand racial differences in child poverty in the U.S.? In a new study in Socio-Economic Review, Parolin finds that racial inequities in states’ administration of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program contribute meaningfully to the black-white child poverty gap. His study shows that states with higher shares of black residents are less likely to prioritize the ‘provision of cash assistance’, but more likely to spend TANF funds on the ‘discouragement of lone motherhood’. Removing the inequities in states’ TANF spending priorities would reduce the black–white child poverty gap by up to 15%—comparable to the reduction effect of moving all children in single-mother households to two-parent households. Parolin shows that state-level policy differences should be central to our understanding of racial differences in child poverty.
For more discussion, read the recent article in the Atlantic featuring the study.