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Do single mothers in the United States use the Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce unsecured debt?

Author

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  • H. Shaefer

    ()

  • Xiaoqing Song
  • Trina Williams Shanks

Abstract

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable credit for low-income workers mainly targeted at families with children. This study uses the Survey of Income and Program Participation’s topical modules on Assets and Liabilities to examine associations between the EITC expansions during the early 1990s and the unsecured debt of the households of single mothers. We use two difference-in-differences comparisons over the study period 1988–1999, first comparing single mothers to single childless women, and then comparing single mothers with two or more children to single mothers with exactly one child. In both cases we find that the EITC expansions are associated with a relative decline in the unsecured debt of affected households of single mothers. While not direct evidence of a causal relationship, this is suggestive evidence that single mothers may have used part of their EITC to limit the growth of their unsecured debt during this period. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013

Suggested Citation

  • H. Shaefer & Xiaoqing Song & Trina Williams Shanks, 2013. "Do single mothers in the United States use the Earned Income Tax Credit to reduce unsecured debt?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 659-680, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:reveho:v:11:y:2013:i:4:p:659-680
    DOI: 10.1007/s11150-012-9144-y
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114.
    2. Dahl, Molly & DeLeire, Thomas & Schwabish, Jonathan, 2009. "Stepping Stone or Dead End? The Effect of the EITC on Earnings Growth," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 62(2), pages 329-346, June.
    3. Meyer, Bruce D. & Sullivan, James X., 2004. "The effects of welfare and tax reform: the material well-being of single mothers in the 1980s and 1990s," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1387-1420, July.
    4. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1996. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 605-637.
    5. James X. Sullivan, 2008. "Borrowing During Unemployment: Unsecured Debt as a Safety Net," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(2), pages 383-412.
    6. Romich, Jennifer L. & Weisner, Thomas, 2000. "How Families View and Use the EITC: Advance Payment Versus Lump Sum Delivery," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1245-1266, December.
    7. Barrow, Lisa & McGranahan, Leslie, 2000. "The Effects of the Earned Income Credit on the Seasonality of Household Expenditures," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1211-1244, December.
    8. Ellwood, David T., 2000. "The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Social Policy Reforms on Work, Marriage, and Living Arrangements," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1063-1106, December.
    9. Barrow, Lisa & McGranahan, Leslie, 2000. "The Effects of the Earned Income Credit on the Seasonality of Household Expenditures," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1211-44, December.
    10. Scholz, John Karl, 1994. "The Earned Income Credit: Participation, Compliance, and Antipoverty Effectiveness," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 47(1), pages 63-87, March.
    11. Smeeding, Timothy M. & Phillips, Katherin Ross & O’Connor, Michael, 2000. "The EITC: Expectation, Knowledge, Use, and Economic and Social Mobility," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 53(4), pages 1187-1210, December.
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    13. Larry Bumpass & R. Raley, 1995. "Redefining single-parent families: Cohabitation and changing family reality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 32(1), pages 97-109, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kyoung Tae Kim & Melissa J. Wilmarth, 2016. "Government Subsidies and Household Debt Burden After the Great Recession," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 349-358, September.
    2. Mary Eschelbach Hansen & Julie Routzahn, 2014. "Gender Differences in Attitudes Toward Debt and Financial Position: The Impact of the Great Recession," Working Papers 2014-10, American University, Department of Economics.
    3. repec:bla:jconsa:v:51:y:2017:i:2:p:355-379 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Natasha Pilkauskas & Katherine Michelmore, 2017. "Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Reduce Housing Instability?," Working Papers wp18-01-ff, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Earned Income Tax Credit; Single Mothers; Unsecured Debt; H23; H53; I38;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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