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The Earned Income Tax Credit

In: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States

  • V. Joseph Hotz

Since its inception in 1975, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has grown into the largest, Federally-funded means-tested cash assistance program in the United States. In this chapter, we review the political history of the EITC, its rules and goals and provide a broad set of program statistics on its growth and coverage. We summarize conceptual underpinnings of much of the recent economic research on the EITC, discussing participation in the credit and compliance with its provisions, and its effects on labor force participation and hours of work, marriage and fertility, skill formation and consumption. We note that participation rates of the credit are high, rates of credit noncompliance are also high, and that there are theoretical reasons to prefer the EITC to other anti-poverty programs if one's objective is to encourage work among the poor. We also note that the predicted effects of the EITC are not all pro-work, especially with respect to hours and its labor market incentives for two-earner couples. We then summarize the existing empirical research on the behavioral effects of the EITC, paying particularly emphasis to the effects of the 1986, 1990 and 1993 expansions of the credit on labor force participation and hours of work. The literature provides consistent evidence, generated from a variety of empirical approaches, that the EITC positively affects labor force participation. The literature also finds smaller, negative effects on hours of work for people already in the labor market and for secondary workers. We conclude the chapter with a discussion of the ongoing EITC-related policy debates and highlight what, if any, critical economic issues underlie these debates.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1, 07.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10256.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10256
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    1. Nada Eissa & Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1998. "The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Labor Supply of Married Couples," NBER Working Papers 6856, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
    3. Jennifer L. Romich & Thomas Weisner, 2000. "How Families View and Use the EITC: Advanced Payment versus Lump-sum Delivery," JCPR Working Papers 138, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. Whittington, Leslie A & Alm, James & Peters, H Elizabeth, 1990. "Fertility and the Personal Exemption: Implicit Pronatalist Policy in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 545-56, June.
    5. Bruce D. Meyer, 1994. "Natural and Quasi- Experiments in Economics," NBER Technical Working Papers 0170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. M. Keane & R. Mofitt, 1995. "A Structural Model of Multiple Welfare Program Participation and Labor Supply," Working Papers 95-4, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    7. McCubbin, Janet, 2000. "EITC Noncompliance: The Determinants of the Misreporting of Children," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1135-64, December.
    8. 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.
    9. David T. Ellwood & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "The Middle-Class Parent Penalty: Child Benefits in the U.S. Tax Code," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 15, pages 1-40 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Saul D. Hoffman & Laurence S. Seidman, 1990. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number eitc, November.
    11. Allingham, Michael G. & Sandmo, Agnar, 1972. "Income tax evasion: a theoretical analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(3-4), pages 323-338, November.
    12. Dennis J. Ventry, 2000. "The Collision of Tax and Welfare Politics: The Political History of the Earned Income Tax Credit, 1969 - 1999," JCPR Working Papers 149, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    13. Holtzblatt, Janet & Rebelein, Robert, 2000. "Measuring the Effect of the EITC on Marriage Penalties and Bonuses," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1107-34, December.
    14. Jappelli, Tullio & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen & Souleles, Nicholas, 1995. "Testing for Liquidity Constraints in Euler Equations with Complementary Data Sources," CEPR Discussion Papers 1138, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Andreoni, James, 1992. "IRS as loan shark tax compliance with borrowing constraints," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 35-46, October.
    16. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1995. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 5158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Richard Blundell & Thomas MaCurdy, 1998. "Labour supply: a review of alternative approaches," IFS Working Papers W98/18, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    18. Dickert-Conlin, Stacy & Houser, Scott, 1998. "Taxes and Transfers: A New Look at the Marriage Penalty," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 51(n. 2), pages 175-217, June.
    19. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Tullio Jappelli, 1990. "Who is Credit Constrained in the U. S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-234.
    21. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1999. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," NBER Working Papers 7363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. Daniel Feenberg & Elisabeth Coutts, 1993. "An introduction to the TAXSIM model," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(1), pages 189-194.
    23. Weiss, Yoram, 1972. "On the Optimal Lifetime Pattern of Labour Supply," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(328), pages 1293-1315, December.
    24. 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, vol. 53(n. 4), pages 1245-66, December.
    25. Neumark, David & Wascher, William, 2001. "Using The EITC to Help Poor Families: New Evidence and a Comparison with the Minimum Wage," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 54(n. 2), pages 281-318, June.
    26. 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.
    27. 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.
    28. Holtzblatt, Janet & McCubbin, Janet & Gillette, Robert, 1994. "Promoting Work Through the EITC," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(3), pages 591-607, September.
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