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How Marginal Tax Rates Affect Families at Various Levels of Poverty

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  • Maag, Elaine
  • Steuerle, C. Eugene
  • Chakravarti, Ritadhi
  • Quakenbush, Caleb

Abstract

High marginal tax rates can make moving above poverty very difficult for low-income families. These high tax rates result from increasing direct taxes (both state and federal) as well as decreasing transfer payments (including both Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Depending on which state a person lives, a single parent with two children can face an average marginal tax rate of over 100 percent or as low as 26.6 percent as they move from the poverty level of income to 150 percent of the poverty level. If her earnings are limited to only six months of the year, she may retain transfer benefits for the remaining six months, lowering her marginal rate over the same income range to between 66.0 percent and –17.7 percent for those additional earnings. Our analysis shows how sensitive marginal tax rates are to assumptions about earnings patterns and program participation.

Suggested Citation

  • Maag, Elaine & Steuerle, C. Eugene & Chakravarti, Ritadhi & Quakenbush, Caleb, 2012. "How Marginal Tax Rates Affect Families at Various Levels of Poverty," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 65(4), pages 759-782, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ntj:journl:v:65:y:2012:i:4:p:759-82
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Holt, Stephen D. & Romich, Jennifer L., 2007. "Marginal Tax Rates Facing Low– and Moderate–Income Workers Who Participate in Means–Tested Transfer Programs," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(2), pages 253-276, June.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Casey B. Mulligan, 2012. "The ARRA: Some Unpleasant Welfare Arithmetic," NBER Working Papers 18591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gizem Kosar & Robert A. Moffitt, 2017. "Trends in Cumulative Marginal Tax Rates Facing Low-Income Families, 1997-2007," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 43-70.
    3. Richard Blundell, 2016. "Coase Lecture—Human Capital, Inequality and Tax Reform: Recent Past and Future Prospects," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(330), pages 201-218, April.
    4. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 2015. "Benefit incidence with incentive effects, measurement errors and latent heterogeneity: A case study for China," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 124-132.
    5. repec:eee:macchp:v2-725 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Randy Albelda & Michael Carr, 2017. "One Step Forward, One Step Back? Labor Supply Effects of Minimum Wage Increases on Single Parents with Public Child Care Support," Working Papers 2017_01, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.
    7. Golosov, M. & Tsyvinski, A. & Werquin, N., 2016. "Recursive Contracts and Endogenously Incomplete Markets," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    8. Marchand, J. & Smeeding, T., 2016. "Poverty and Aging," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Elsevier.
      • Marchand, Joseph & Smeeding, Timothy, 2016. "Poverty and Aging," Working Papers 2016-11, University of Alberta, Department of Economics, revised 20 Nov 2016.
    9. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski & Nicolas Werquin, 2014. "A Variational Approach to the Analysis of Tax Systems," NBER Working Papers 20780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Mikhail Golosov & Maxim Troshkin & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2016. "Redistribution and Social Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(2), pages 359-386, February.

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