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Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty

Author

Listed:
  • James Alm
  • Stacy Dickert-Conlin
  • Leslie A. Whittington

Abstract

Many government programs have implicit penalties or subsidies for marriage. For example, many couples pay higher income taxes when married than their combined tax liabilities as single filers, while many other couples receive a marriage subsidy because their joint taxes fall with marriage. Likewise, most low-income couples are eligible for higher welfare benefits if they are separated rather than married. This article discusses the marriage penalty, with a particular focus on tax and transfer programs. Why does it exist? Who faces it? To what extent does it affect marriage and labor market behavior? What tradeoffs are involved in reducing it?

Suggested Citation

  • James Alm & Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Leslie A. Whittington, 1999. "Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 193-204, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:13:y:1999:i:3:p:193-204
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.3.193
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.13.3.193
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert Moffitt & Robert Reville & Anne Winkler, 1998. "Beyond single mothers: Cohabitation and marriage in the AFDC program," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 35(3), pages 259-278, August.
    2. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
    3. Williamson Hoyne, Hilary, 1997. "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 89-117, August.
    4. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, June.
    5. Robert Moffitt, 1994. "Welfare Effects on Female Headship with Area Effects," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 621-636.
    6. Stacy Dickert & Scott Houser & John Karl Scholz, 1995. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and Transfer Programs: A Study of Labor Market and Program Participation," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 9, pages 1-50 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. N. Eissa & H. W. Hoynes, "undated". "The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Labor Supply of Married Couples," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1194-99, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    8. repec:hoo:wpaper:e-90-11 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Sjoquist, David L. & Walker, Mary Beth, 1995. "The Marriage Tax and the Rate and Timing of Marriage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(4), pages 547-58, December.
    10. Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 1996. "Welfare Transfers in Two-Parent Families: Labor Supply and Welfare Participation under AFDC-UP," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 295-332, March.
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    12. Harvey S. Rosen, 1987. "The Marriage Tax is Down But Not Out," NBER Working Papers 2231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Robert K. Triest, 1990. "The Effect of Income Taxation on Labor Supply in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(3), pages 491-516.
    15. Sjoquist, David L. & Walker, Mary Beth, 1995. "The Marriage Tax and the Rate and Timing of Marriage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 48(4), pages 547-558, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies

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