The US Senate wonders about tax policy for the American Dream: Do parents act in the best interests of their children?

How should programs intended to support children in low-income families be designed if parents don’t always act in the best interests of their children?

This question, among others, was posed to me in response to my July 10th testimony to the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on “Helping Young People Achieve the American Dream.”  You can review all of the questions on my November 11th post.

In one way or another they address the fundamental drivers of the extent to which children grow up to be adults having the same socio-economic status as their parents. Family background matters for life chances because of three related forces: inequalities originating in the labour market, the capacity of families to invest in the skills and aptitudes of their children, and the degree to which public policy levels the playing field.

What parents do matters a good deal, and a question posed by the Committee Chairperson, Senator Max Baucus, recognizes this, and wonders about the implications for the design of public policy.

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