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Milton Friedman, the Negative Income Tax, and the Evolution of US Welfare Policy


  • Robert Moffitt


The negative income tax proposed by Milton Friedman represents one of the fundamental ideas of modern welfare policy. However, the academic literature has raised two difficulties with it, one challenging its purported work incentives and the other suggesting the possible superiority of work requirements. In addition, work requirement approaches have gained ground in actual U.S. welfare policy over the last 30 years and the number of different programs has proliferated, another development counter to the negative income tax. On the other hand, the Earned Income Tax Credit has produced a negative-income-tax-like program on a vast scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Moffitt, 2002. "Milton Friedman, the Negative Income Tax, and the Evolution of US Welfare Policy," Economics Working Paper Archive 486, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:486

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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. Bruce, Neil & Waldman, Michael, 1991. "Transfers in Kind: Why They Can Be Efficient and Nonpaternalistic," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1345-1351, December.
    3. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1992. "Workfare versus Welfare Incentive Arguments for Work Requirements in Poverty-Alleviation Programs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 249-261, March.
    4. Brown, Charles C. & Oates, Wallace E., 1987. "Assistance to the poor in a federal system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 307-330, April.
    5. Fortin, Bernard & Truchon, Michel & Beausejour, Louis, 1993. "On reforming the welfare system : Workfare meets the negative income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 119-151, June.
    6. James J. Heckman, 1974. "Effects of Child-Care Programs on Women's Work Effort," NBER Chapters,in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 136-169 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. James Alm & Stacy Dickert-Conlin & Leslie A. Whittington, 1999. "Policy Watch: The Marriage Penalty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 193-204, Summer.
    8. Nichols, Albert L & Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1982. "Targeting Transfers through Restrictions on Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 372-377, May.
    9. V. Joseph Hotz, 2003. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Chapters,in: Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States, pages 141-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jan K. Brueckner, 1999. "Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom: Theory and Evidence," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 505-525, January.
    11. Auerbach, Alan J. & Hines, James Jr., 2002. "Taxation and economic efficiency," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1347-1421 Elsevier.
    12. Katherine Cuff, 2000. "Optimality of workfare with heterogeneous preferences," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 33(1), pages 149-174, February.
    13. Robert A. Moffitt, 2003. "Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number moff03-1, January.
    14. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    15. Wheaton, William C., 2000. "Decentralized Welfare: Will There Be Underprovision?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 536-555, November.
    16. Pauly, Mark V., 1973. "Income redistribution as a local public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 35-58, February.
    17. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1988. "Cash versus Kind, Self-selection, and Efficient Transfers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 691-700, September.
    18. Parsons, Donald O., 1996. "Imperfect 'tagging' in social insurance programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1-2), pages 183-207, October.
    19. James J. Heckrnan, 1974. "Effects of Child-Care Programs on Women's Work Effort," NBER Chapters,in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 491-524 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Irwin Garfinkel, 1973. "Is In-Kind Redistribution Efficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(2), pages 320-330.
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    Blog mentions

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    1. Milton Friedman: a question
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2006-11-17 19:31:11

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