Most Common Uses of 2021 Child Tax Credit Payments: Food, Utilities, Housing, Clothes

Posted March 22, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Update childtaxcredit 2022

Note: This blog post was pub­lished orig­i­nal­ly on Feb. 23, 2022, and then updat­ed with new data on March 222022.

The fed­er­al Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, enact­ed in March 2021, tem­porar­i­ly expand­ed the Child Tax Cred­it (CTC) to include advance month­ly pay­ments for many fam­i­lies from July through Decem­ber 2021. These pay­ments pro­vid­ed crit­i­cal sup­port dur­ing the pan­dem­ic to help par­ents cov­er basic liv­ing expens­es, such as gro­ceries and rent, or to help those strug­gling with debt or try­ing to save money.

About the Child Tax Cred­it Pay­ments Data

The Cen­sus Bureau’s House­hold Pulse Sur­vey gath­ered data on fam­i­lies who received these CTC pay­ments dur­ing July–December 2021. Specif­i­cal­ly, data was col­lect­ed inter­mit­tent­ly between July 21, 2021, and Feb. 7, 2022, and asked house­holds with chil­dren under age 18 if any­one in the home had received a CTC pay­ment in the past four weeks, fol­lowed by ques­tions about use of the pay­ments if applic­a­ble. While the most recent data col­lec­tion peri­od includes the first month of 2022, the data describe 2021 pay­ments. The find­ings below cov­er the whole six-month time­frame unless oth­er­wise noted.

These data are offered in the KIDS COUNT® Data Center’s spe­cial col­lec­tion on COVID-19, along with oth­er data on fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. Key take­aways about fam­i­lies who received CTC pay­ments are high­light­ed below.

Key Find­ings

How Many Fam­i­lies Received Child Tax Cred­it Payments?

How Did Fam­i­lies Use Their Child Tax Cred­it Payments?

Did Fam­i­lies Most­ly Spend, Save or Use the CTC to Pay Off Debt?

Over­all, the data reveal that fam­i­lies increas­ing­ly spent (not saved) their 2021 CTC pay­ments, and they increas­ing­ly spent this assis­tance on basic needs, includ­ing food, util­i­ties, hous­ing and cloth­ing. This is con­sis­tent with oth­er data show­ing that a ris­ing share of fam­i­lies had dif­fi­cul­ty pay­ing for usu­al house­hold expens­es in the last half of 2021. Ris­ing rates of infla­tion may have added to this dif­fi­cul­ty, as well. The pan­dem­ic has hit fam­i­lies hard across Amer­i­ca, espe­cial­ly fam­i­lies of col­or, and mil­lions are still strug­gling. These find­ings point to the val­ue of and need for the expand­ed Child Tax Cred­it, which offered vital sup­port for par­ents try­ing to pro­vide the most basic life neces­si­ties for their children.

Learn More About the 2021 Child Tax Cred­it and Fam­i­ly Expe­ri­ences Dur­ing COVID-19

Access all data in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter on the Child Tax Cred­it and fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, includ­ing data on eco­nom­ic well-being, employ­ment, hous­ing, edu­ca­tion, child care, health care, men­tal health and more. Many indi­ca­tors are avail­able by race and eth­nic­i­ty, as well.

For decades, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has pro­mot­ed the Child Tax Cred­it and advo­cat­ed to strength­en it, as a tool to improve the lives of chil­dren and fam­i­lies. Explore the Foundation’s pub­li­ca­tions, blog posts and oth­er resources relat­ed to the CTC, fam­i­ly pover­ty and the pan­dem­ic, includ­ing this selec­tion of recent resources:

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