Restoring EITC Eligibility for Families Without Social Security Numbers

A simple policy change to lift more than half a million children out of poverty and improve racial/ethnic equity
Published: 07.29.2022 Updated: 12.20.2022

Children in immigrant families and Hispanic children have some of the highest poverty rates in the United States. They are also disproportionately excluded from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs for low-income working families. 

While federal legislation on large social policy expansions remains stalled, adjustments can still be made to existing safety net policies to begin to reduce child poverty equitably—small changes that make important strides in advancing racial/ethnic equity and promoting child health and wellbeing. 

Here, we focus on changing the eligibility rules for the EITC, which currently require every member of a working, taxpaying family to have a Social Security number in order to receive any credit. 

Our new brief

In a new brief, Restoring EITC Eligibility for Families Without Social Security Numbers, we demonstrate the powerful impact of removing Social Security number requirements from the EITC.

Key Takeaways

  • This simple policy change would lift over half a million children out of poverty.
  • It would reduce child poverty equitably. Poverty rates for Hispanic children and for citizen children in families with undocumented members—some of the poorest groups of children in the United States—would fall 13% and by 31%, respectively.
  • This expansion in EITC eligibility would have wide-ranging societal benefits. It would fix an injustice in the tax code; correct a mistreatment of U.S. citizen children who live with undocumented family members; promote the health and wellbeing of children in immigrant families; and reward the work efforts of immigrant families.
  • This change is not unprecedented. Eligibility for parents without Social Security numbers (SSNs) would align the EITC with current Child Tax Credit eligibility, while eligibility for parents and children without SSNs would align the EITC with Child Tax Credit eligibility rules prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. 

One piece of a larger goal to reduce child poverty

This new brief builds on our April 2022 report A Policy Equity Analysis of the Earned Income Tax Credit. In that report, we simulated the poverty reducing effects of eliminating SSN requirements from the EITC while also increasing the benefit amount by 40%. Meeting widely shared policy goals of cutting child poverty in half will require ambitious policy proposals such as this one that pair more inclusive eligibility for social welfare programs with increased benefits. While federal legislation on such changes is postponed, our new brief offers one simple way to begin to reduce child poverty equitably.

Headshot of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Director, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy
Headshot of Abigail Walters
Abigail N. Walters
Research Associate
Headshot of Leah Shafer
Leah Shafer
Senior Communications Specialist
Headshot of Pamela Joshi
Pamela Joshi
Policy Research Director