The Diaper Change States Need to Make to Help Young Families

February 15th 2017

Nicole Levin

When it comes to diapers, cloth versus fabric isn't the only debate. Whether this daily necessity for families should be subject to a sales tax is an open question, too.

Diaper Cream

Only twelve states (and D.C.) exempt diapers from taxes, despite the heavy financial burden they place on low-income families.

In the remaining 38 states, parents must pay sales tax on diapers a tax as high as ten percent with local surtaxes. This is coupled with the fact that, despite a demonstrable need for diaper assistance among young families, food stamps cannot be used to buy diapers, nor are diapers included in federal and state programs aimed at helping young families. While legislation ending sales taxes on diapers passed in D.C. last year, a similar bill in California was vetoed, thanks in large part to arguments pointing out that the sales tax on diapers brings in $46.7 million dollars per year.

Meanwhile, legislation at the federal level to create grants for diapers have not only failed, but have been mocked by conservatives.

Alison Weir, Chief of Policy, Research, and Analysis at the National Diaper Bank Network, which started a petition to end the diaper tax, told ATTN: that diapers should be considered a basic necessity and that parents need "immediate assistance."

Diaper Need

"We've seen a strong correlation between maternal depression and diaper needs," Weir told ATTN:. "Moms who lack enough diapers are more likely to be stressed because of [diaper needs] than any other reason, including food insecurity."

According to Weir, when parents don't have enough diapers, they tend to delay changing diapers, which can lead to diaper dermatitis, urinary tract inflections, and other infections.

She tells ATTN: the the elimination of a five percent sales tax would allow parents to purchase ten more diapers a month.

And while a tax break is not targeted specifically to the poor, it is targeted to families with children, and those families tend to have less buying power, because they are younger and earlier in their career. According to Weir, "Forty-six percent of children under the age of three are in poor or low income families."