New Advances on an Old Question: Does Money Matter for Children's Outcomes?
Journal of Economic Literature (Forthcoming)
Family income is a positive predictor of children’s health, human capital, and later-life earnings, but determining the extent to which these associations reflect causal effects is challenging. A recent wave of natural and randomized experiments, together with increased accessibility of large-scale administrative data, are allowing us to gain new perspectives about the importance of families’ monetary resources in the U.S. and other high-income countries. This review pulls the emerging literature together to provide deeper insights into what we know, and what we don’t know, about the extent to which policies that provide more generous income transfers could make a difference to children’s life chances. My reading of the evidence suggests that policies providing financial resources to economically vulnerable families have the potential to improve children’s outcomes. The magnitude of predicted impacts varies considerably across studies, however, and may be related to specific features of the income-generating event that researchers’ leverage.