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Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty

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

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?

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.13.3.193
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 13 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 193-204

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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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  1. 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.
  2. Feenberg, Daniel R. & Rosen, Harvey S., 1995. "Recent Developments in the Marriage Tax," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 48(1), pages 91-101, March.
  3. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 1999. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Labor Supply of Married Couples," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1024b9z8, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  4. 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.
  5. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. V. Joseph Hotz & John Karl Scholz, 2001. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 8078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. H. W. Hoynes, . "Does welfare play any role in female headship decisions?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1078-95, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Harvey S. Rosen, 1987. "The Marriage Tax is Down But Not Out," NBER Working Papers 2231, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Pechman, Joseph A. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 1990. "The Income Tax Treatment of the Family: An International Perspective," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 43(1), pages 1-22, March.
  13. Thomas MaCurdy & David Green & Harry Paarsch, 1990. "Assessing Empirical Approaches for Analyzing Taxes and Labor Supply," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(3), pages 415-490.
  14. 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.
  15. Robert Moffitt & Robert Reville & Anne Winkler, 1998. "Beyond single mothers: Cohabitation and marriage in the AFDC program," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 259-278, August.
  16. 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.
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