During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rapid rise in cases of anxiety and depression, which disproportionately affected communities of color. In June 2020, 37.8 percent of white adults reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom compared with 44.2 percent among Black adults and 52.1 percent among Hispanic adults. This occurred, in part, because of the increased risk of financial hardships and exacerbation of long-standing inequities in income, housing, and other social determinants of mental health for racially marginalized groups during the pandemic.
In response to the financial hardship caused by the pandemic, in July 2021 the US government expanded the child tax credit (CTC). The CTC formerly provided $2,000 per child, but under the expansion, which expired at the end of 2021, the CTC provided a maximum of $3,600 per child, included low-income and unemployed parents, and was disbursed monthly instead of through an annual tax refund. Early research suggests the CTC reduced child poverty by nearly half, but we know of no studies on its mental health effects. This project will evaluate the effect of the 2021 CTC expansion on mental health outcomes and whether there was a greater benefit for racially marginalized groups because of their lower average income. The study will also examine whether there was evidence that structural racism may have weakened outreach and take-up among communities of color in regions with a higher prevalence of racism.