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The Earned Income Tax Credit

  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • John Karl Scholz

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8078.

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Date of creation: Jan 2001
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Publication status: published as Moffitt, R. (ed.) Means-Tested Transfer Programs in the U.S. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8078
Note: PE
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Daniel R. Feenberg & Harvey S. Rosen, 1994. "Recent Developments in the Marriage Tax," NBER Working Papers 4705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. M. Keane & R. Moffitt, . "A structural model of multiple welfare program participation and labor supply," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1080-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Bruce D. Meyer, 1994. "Natural and Quasi- Experiments in Economics," NBER Technical Working Papers 0170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  14. Janet Holtzblatt & Robert Rebelein, 2000. "Measuring the Effect of the EITC on Marriage Penalties and Bonuses," JCPR Working Papers 127, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 1998. "Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Labor Supply of Single Mothers," JCPR Working Papers 32, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Tullio Jappelli & Jörn-Steffen Pischke & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1998. "Testing For Liquidity Constraints In Euler Equations With Complementary Data Sources," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(2), pages 251-262, May.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. repec:fth:pennfi:69 is not listed on IDEAS
  24. 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.
  25. Andreoni, James, 1992. "IRS as loan shark tax compliance with borrowing constraints," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 35-46, October.
  26. Weiss, Yoram, 1972. "On the Optimal Lifetime Pattern of Labour Supply," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 82(328), pages 1293-1315, December.
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
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