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The Interaction of Metropolitan Area Costs and the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit: One Size Fits All?


  • Katie Fitzpatrick
  • Jeffrey P. Thompson


The Federal Earned Income Tax Credoit (EITC) contributed to increasing employment rates for single women during the 1990s. This paper expands on what is known about the labor supply response to the EITC by exploiting differences in the cost-of-living faced by potentially eligible recipients in different geographic areas. Using the 1993 EITC expansion, we demonstrate that the labor supply response varies considerably with metropolitan area cost-of-living. We identify an increase in labor force participation among single mothers of as much as 10 percentage points in the lowest cost metropolitan areas. There is no discernable participation response in metropolitan areas with the highest housing costs, where approximately 40 of the population lives. We find little response along the intensive margin, regardless of the costs in the metropolitan area. We conclude that the welfare-enhancing effects of the EITC are undermined by the interaction of the program's fixed national rules and geographic variation in wages and cost of living. In addition, our findings suggest that the federal EITC does little to reduce joblessness in many of the nation's largest cities.

Suggested Citation

  • Katie Fitzpatrick & Jeffrey P. Thompson, 2008. "The Interaction of Metropolitan Area Costs and the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit: One Size Fits All?," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 110, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  • Handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:110

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    EITC; cost-of-living; tax reform; labor supply;

    JEL classification:

    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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