Repeal Law Intensifying Childhood Poverty


Target: Sylvia Mathews Burwell , U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services

Goal: Repeal financial assistance rules intended to discourage poor families for having children

In 23 U.S. states “family caps” prevent poor families from receiving additional cash assistance if they have another child while on welfare. These rules were put into effect to curb the birth of children to families supposedly unfit to care for them, incorrectly assuming that poor families are more likely to have children out of wedlock and to have more children in general. These rules have had little impact on birthrates among low-income families, but they do make poor families poorer while discriminating against them for having children.

In the 1960s nearly a third of all families that received aid had three or more children. By the time states first started adopting caps in the early 1990s that number had already dropped to 10% and has not changed significantly since. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, in 2013 the “average family size was the same, whether or not a family received assistance.”

Despite family caps appearing to have little to no effect on family size, they continue to have quite an effect on family poverty. For example, California’s Maximum Family Grant stipulates that a child born within ten months of the family receiving benefits cannot get any extra assistance for his or her care. In 2006 the Urban Institute released a report stating that family caps increased the deep poverty rate of single mothers by 12.5% and for children by 13.1%.

An argument can be made for the importance of familial responsibility. However family caps fail to take into account the plight of the children involved, and the fact that such policies do not achieve their intended aeffect. They intentionally discriminate against poor families, making it a clear violation of the government’s responsibility to its people. Demand that lawmakers stop this discrimination against poor families and repeal family caps.


Dear Secretary Burwell,

Family caps for income assistance programs do little to affect family size, but they have a clear impact on the poverty levels of children and single parents who temporarily depend on welfare. If the fact that family caps fail to lower birthrates is not a strong enough case for abandoning them, then please consider their negative impact on the poverty of families stigmatized by these discriminatory policies.

The Urban Institute found that single mothers and children who receive benefits in states with family caps experience a 12.5% and a 13.1% increase in deep poverty, respectively. This is despite the fact that, as reported by the Bureau for Labor Statistics, average family size is unaffected by whether or not the family receives welfare.

Family caps seem only to punish struggling families for having children, victimizing the only family members who cannot be held responsible: the children. Repeal family caps immediately and end its compounding effect on the suffering of children in poverty.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay

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