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  • Individual Author: Jones, Maggie R.; Ziliak, James P.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2019

    Evaluations of the EITC, including its antipoverty effectiveness, are based on simulated EITC benefits using either the Census Bureau’s tax module or from external tax simulators such as the National Bureau of Economic Research’s TAXSIM or Jon Bakija’s model. Each simulator utilizes model-based assumptions on who is and who is not eligible for the EITC, and conditional on eligibility, assumes that participation is 100 percent. However, recent evidence suggests that take-up of the EITC is considerably less than 100 percent, and thus claims regarding the impact of the program on measures of poverty may be overstated. We use data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) linked to IRS tax data on the EITC to compare the distribution of EITC benefits from three tax simulation modules to administrative tax records. We find that significantly more actual EITC payments flow to childless tax units than predicted by the tax simulators, and to those whose family income places then well above official poverty thresholds. However, actual EITC...

    Evaluations of the EITC, including its antipoverty effectiveness, are based on simulated EITC benefits using either the Census Bureau’s tax module or from external tax simulators such as the National Bureau of Economic Research’s TAXSIM or Jon Bakija’s model. Each simulator utilizes model-based assumptions on who is and who is not eligible for the EITC, and conditional on eligibility, assumes that participation is 100 percent. However, recent evidence suggests that take-up of the EITC is considerably less than 100 percent, and thus claims regarding the impact of the program on measures of poverty may be overstated. We use data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) linked to IRS tax data on the EITC to compare the distribution of EITC benefits from three tax simulation modules to administrative tax records. We find that significantly more actual EITC payments flow to childless tax units than predicted by the tax simulators, and to those whose family income places then well above official poverty thresholds. However, actual EITC payments appear to be target efficient at the individual tax unit level, whether correctly paid or not. We then compare the antipoverty impact of the EITC across the survey and administrative tax measures of EITC benefits. We find that in the full CPS ASEC the tax simulators overestimate the antipoverty effects of the EITC by about 1.8 million persons in a typical year. Restricting to a harmonized sample of filers, we find that the antipoverty estimates derived from the TAXSIM and Bakija models align more closely to actual EITC payments compared to the CPS, suggesting a discrepancy in assignment of tax filers between the tax simulators. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Halpern-Meekin, Sarah; Greene, Sara Sternberg; Levin, Ezra; Edin, Kathryn
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2018

    Financial stability depends on emergency savings. Low-wage workers regularly experience drops in income and unexpected expenses. Households with savings absorb these financial shocks but most low-income Americans lack rainy day savings. Therefore, even a small shock, like car repairs, can result in a cascade of events that throws a low-income family into poverty. Nonetheless, existing policies address emergency savings only indirectly. However, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) already functions as an imperfect, makeshift savings tool. This lump sum refund at tax time gives workers a moment of financial slack, but many EITC recipients lack emergency reserves later in the year. By creating a “Rainy Day EITC” component of the existing EITC, policymakers can help low-wage workers build up emergency savings. (Author abstract)

    Financial stability depends on emergency savings. Low-wage workers regularly experience drops in income and unexpected expenses. Households with savings absorb these financial shocks but most low-income Americans lack rainy day savings. Therefore, even a small shock, like car repairs, can result in a cascade of events that throws a low-income family into poverty. Nonetheless, existing policies address emergency savings only indirectly. However, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) already functions as an imperfect, makeshift savings tool. This lump sum refund at tax time gives workers a moment of financial slack, but many EITC recipients lack emergency reserves later in the year. By creating a “Rainy Day EITC” component of the existing EITC, policymakers can help low-wage workers build up emergency savings. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Pilkauskas, Natasha; Michelmore, Katherine
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2018

    As rents have risen and wages have not kept pace, housing affordability has declined over the last 15 years, increasing rates of housing instability (shared living arrangements/doubling up, moves, eviction/homelessness). Housing instability is especially common among low-income families and is linked with many negative outcomes for families and children. Yet surprisingly little is known about the causal impact of income on housing instability and living arrangements, the focus of this study. Using the Current Population Survey, we employ a parameterized difference-in-differences strategy to examine whether policy-induced expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a key income transfer program in the US, affect the living arrangements and housing instability of single mothers. Results suggest that a $1,000 increase in the EITC reduces doubling up (living with additional, non-nuclear family adults) by 2 to 4 percentage points. Single mothers moving out of three-generation households explains much of the decline in shared living arrangements. An increase in the EITC...

    As rents have risen and wages have not kept pace, housing affordability has declined over the last 15 years, increasing rates of housing instability (shared living arrangements/doubling up, moves, eviction/homelessness). Housing instability is especially common among low-income families and is linked with many negative outcomes for families and children. Yet surprisingly little is known about the causal impact of income on housing instability and living arrangements, the focus of this study. Using the Current Population Survey, we employ a parameterized difference-in-differences strategy to examine whether policy-induced expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a key income transfer program in the US, affect the living arrangements and housing instability of single mothers. Results suggest that a $1,000 increase in the EITC reduces doubling up (living with additional, non-nuclear family adults) by 2 to 4 percentage points. Single mothers moving out of three-generation households explains much of the decline in shared living arrangements. An increase in the EITC increases the propensity to have moved in the last year, and to move for a welfare-improving reason. Results are concentrated among single mothers with children under the age of six, suggesting that the EITC has a significant effect on the housing stability and living arrangements of children during a critical developmental period. Findings imply that although the EITC is not an explicit housing policy, it does play a significant role in the living arrangements of single mothers and that income transfers more generally might help improve housing stability. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Fusaro, Vincent A.
    Reference Type: Thesis
    Year: 2017

    Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the program created by welfare reform in 1996, is implemented as a fixed federal block grant that states partially match through a "Maintenance of Effort" contribution. States can use funds in support of any of the four goals of reform: ending dependence on public support through work and marriage, promoting the formation and maintenance of two-parent families, reducing the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, and facilitating care of children in their own homes. Rather than a cash assistance program, TANF is a funding stream states partially use for cash assistance. Traditional welfare now only constitutes approximately one-quarter of TANF expenditures, though the fraction varies widely by state. Most research on state TANF implementation, however, examines the requirements and activities associated with cash assistance receipt. This dissertation comprises three studies intended to better align welfare scholarship with the contemporary form of TANF. The first study examines state TANF cash assistance expenditures and change in...

    Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the program created by welfare reform in 1996, is implemented as a fixed federal block grant that states partially match through a "Maintenance of Effort" contribution. States can use funds in support of any of the four goals of reform: ending dependence on public support through work and marriage, promoting the formation and maintenance of two-parent families, reducing the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, and facilitating care of children in their own homes. Rather than a cash assistance program, TANF is a funding stream states partially use for cash assistance. Traditional welfare now only constitutes approximately one-quarter of TANF expenditures, though the fraction varies widely by state. Most research on state TANF implementation, however, examines the requirements and activities associated with cash assistance receipt. This dissertation comprises three studies intended to better align welfare scholarship with the contemporary form of TANF. The first study examines state TANF cash assistance expenditures and change in expenditures over time using multilevel growth curve models and a sample of all states from 1998 to 2013. I express expenditures as a per-family-in-poverty expense and as a percentage of overall TANF spending. Predictors include a number of political, social, and economic factors. I pay particular attention to the role of race in state politics. In contrast to many earlier studies, which operationalize the salience of race using welfare caseload or population demographics, I create a state-level measure of the prevalence of white stereotyping of blacks. I find that a larger proportion of whites expressing negative views of blacks is related to reduced basic assistance effort but not to rate of change in effort. Additionally, fiscal distress is associated with lower cash assistance effort. In the second study I investigate influences on categorical uses of TANF funds from 2000 to 2013. For categories of expenditures, such as work activities and supportive services, in which almost all states expend resources in almost all years, I estimate multilevel linear models of spending, again expressed both as percentages of total effort and as per-family-in-poverty expenditures. For categories with less consistent spending, I estimate logistic regression models of the probability of a state spending in the category in 2001, 2006, and 2012. I once again find a relationship between prevalence of negative stereotypes of blacks among whites and basic assistance spending. It is also related to the probability of a state using resources for pregnancy prevention or two-parent family support. Fiscal stress is associated with a higher probability of a state transferring funds to the Social Services Block Grant. Finally, the third study considers the consequences of the decline of cash assistance for low-income families. Using data from the Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement (2001-2013), I model food insecurity in low-income households as a function of state cash assistance coverage (ratio of TANF cases to low-income families). Higher coverage is associated with a reduced risk of food insecurity, particularly for households headed by a single female with no other adults. Coverage is generally not related to the presence of an employed adult in the household, however. Tying economic relief to the low-wage labor market, while having beneficial effects for some, has also increased the risk of material hardship in the most vulnerable households. Market-oriented policy may have limits as a safety net of last resort. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Miller, Cynthia; Katz, Lawrence F.; Azurdia, Gilda; Isen, Adam; Schultz, Caroline
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2017

    This report presents interim findings from the test of Paycheck Plus in New York City, presenting the proportion of participants who actually received the expanded credit in the first two years, and the credit’s effects over that time on income, work, earnings, tax filing, and child support payments. The findings are consistent with research on the federal EITC showing that an expanded credit can increase after-transfer incomes and encourage employment without creating work disincentives. Later reports will examine effects after three years on income, work, and other measures of well-being, in both New York City and Atlanta. (Edited author executive summary)

    This report presents interim findings from the test of Paycheck Plus in New York City, presenting the proportion of participants who actually received the expanded credit in the first two years, and the credit’s effects over that time on income, work, earnings, tax filing, and child support payments. The findings are consistent with research on the federal EITC showing that an expanded credit can increase after-transfer incomes and encourage employment without creating work disincentives. Later reports will examine effects after three years on income, work, and other measures of well-being, in both New York City and Atlanta. (Edited author executive summary)

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