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The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit

Author

Listed:
  • Gordon B. Dahl

    () (University of California San Diego)

  • Lance Lochner

    () (University of Western Ontario)

Abstract

Past estimates of the effect of family income on child development have often been plagued by endogeneity and measurement error. In this paper, we use an instrumental variables strategy to estimate the causal effect of income on children's math and reading achievement. Our identification derives from the large, non-linear changes in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) over the last two decades. The largest of these changes increased family income by as much as 20%, or approximately $2,100, between 1993 and 1997. Using a panel of roughly 4,500 children matched to their mothers from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth datasets allows us to address problems associated with unobserved heterogeneity, endogenous transitory income shocks, and measurement error in income. Our baseline estimates imply that a $1,000 increase in income raises combined math and reading test scores by 6% of a standard deviation in the short-run. Test gains are larger for children from disadvantaged families and are robust to a variety of alternative specifications.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon B. Dahl & Lance Lochner, 2011. "The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit," Working Papers 2011-022, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-022
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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Dahl_Lochner_2011_impact-family-income.pdf
    File Function: First version, June 15, 2011
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    File URL: http://econweb.ucsd.edu/~gdahl/papers/children-and-EITC.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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