The past 15 years has been a period of active policy reform in the cash and near-cash social safety nets of both the United States and Canada. Perhaps more than any other area of social policy, programs in both countries aimed at low-income families and children have evolved from their pre- 1992 form. This paper examines this evolution across the two countries, both reviewing the existing evidence and providing additional analysis on how the programs have fared in achieving a broad set of goals. We focus on the two largest programs over this period: the US EITC and the Canadian NCB/CCTB. The evolution of these programs in both countries represents a significant move away from what preceded them and the programs in the two countries now share many similarities. However, we also note “small differences” across these programs that may matter, the largest of which is the work requirements across the two countries. In light of these changes, we examine trends in employment, poverty and family structure of the most affected families, across the two countries. We also review the existing evaluations of these policies and find that the programs in both countries have had significant benefits for children, increased employment for single mothers, and are associated with declines in poverty.
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