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  • Individual Author: The Council of Economic Advisers
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1998

    The strongest labor market in a generation has resulted in particularly large gains among low-wage and disadvantaged workers. From 1979 to 1993, the real wages of low-wage workers fell sharply. Recently, however, low-wage workers have experienced large increases in real wages: For low-wage men, wages are up since 1996 by 5.7 percent after inflation. And for low-wage women, real wages have risen 6.1 percent.

    These strong wage gains have been accompanied by a steep decline in unemployment for low-skilled workers. In 1993, 11.1 percent of workers without a high school degree were unemployed; today that rate has fallen to 7.2 percent. Among high school graduates (with no college), the rate has fallen from 6.6 to 3.9 percent. Low-wage workers are thus gaining both by working more and by earning more for every hour that they work.

    The effects of a strong economy have been reinforced by successful policies designed to make work pay. Expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) since 1993 are supplementing the incomes of low-wage working parents. The EITC is one of our...

    The strongest labor market in a generation has resulted in particularly large gains among low-wage and disadvantaged workers. From 1979 to 1993, the real wages of low-wage workers fell sharply. Recently, however, low-wage workers have experienced large increases in real wages: For low-wage men, wages are up since 1996 by 5.7 percent after inflation. And for low-wage women, real wages have risen 6.1 percent.

    These strong wage gains have been accompanied by a steep decline in unemployment for low-skilled workers. In 1993, 11.1 percent of workers without a high school degree were unemployed; today that rate has fallen to 7.2 percent. Among high school graduates (with no college), the rate has fallen from 6.6 to 3.9 percent. Low-wage workers are thus gaining both by working more and by earning more for every hour that they work.

    The effects of a strong economy have been reinforced by successful policies designed to make work pay. Expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) since 1993 are supplementing the incomes of low-wage working parents. The EITC is one of our most successful programs for fighting poverty and encouraging work:

    • Lifts more than 4 million Americans out of poverty. The EITC lifted 4.3 million Americans out of poverty in 1997 -- more than double the number in 1993.
    • Dramatically reduces child poverty. In 1997, the EITC reduced the number of children living in poverty by 2.2 million. This report finds that over half of the decline in child poverty between 1993 and 1997 can be explained by changes in taxes, most importantly the EITC.
    • Encourages work among single women with children. In 1992, 73.7 percent of single women with children were in the labor force. In 1997, 84.2 percent of such women were in the labor force. The percentage of single women with children who received welfare and did not work has been cut by more than half -- from 19.3 percent in 1992 to 8.3 percent in 1997.[Based on CPS tabs by Liebman.] Research studies suggest that the increase in labor force participation among single mothers is strongly linked to the expansion in the EITC.

    Increases in the minimum wage have been important in raising the earnings of low-wage workers. Empirical research suggests that recent minimum wage increases have had little or no adverse effect on employment.

    The combined effects of the minimum wage and the EITC have dramatically increased the returns to work for families with children. Between 1993 and 1997, families with one child and one earner who worked full-time at the minimum wage (i.e., $4.72 in 1993 and $5.15 in 1997, in 1997 dollars) experienced a 14 percent -- $1,402 -- increase in their income, after inflation, just because of these two policies alone. Similar families with two children experienced a 27 percent -- $2,761 -- increase in their income. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Meyer, Bruce D.; Rosenbaum, Dan T.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2001

    During 1984-96 there were enormous changes in welfare and tax policy. In particular, there were large; expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Medicaid, changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent; Children (AFDC) program and related training and child care programs. Many of the program changes were intended to; encourage low income women to work. During this same time period there were unprecedented increases in the; employment of single mothers, particularly those with young children. In this paper, we first document these large; changes in policies and employment. We then examine if the policy changes are the reason for the large increases in; single mothers’ employment. We find evidence that a large share of the increase in work by single mothers can be; attributed to the EITC, with smaller shares for welfare benefit reductions, welfare waivers, changes in training programs,; and child care expansions. Our results also indicate that financial incentives through the tax and welfare systems have; substantial effects on single mothers’ employment decisions. (...

    During 1984-96 there were enormous changes in welfare and tax policy. In particular, there were large; expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Medicaid, changes in the Aid to Families with Dependent; Children (AFDC) program and related training and child care programs. Many of the program changes were intended to; encourage low income women to work. During this same time period there were unprecedented increases in the; employment of single mothers, particularly those with young children. In this paper, we first document these large; changes in policies and employment. We then examine if the policy changes are the reason for the large increases in; single mothers’ employment. We find evidence that a large share of the increase in work by single mothers can be; attributed to the EITC, with smaller shares for welfare benefit reductions, welfare waivers, changes in training programs,; and child care expansions. Our results also indicate that financial incentives through the tax and welfare systems have; substantial effects on single mothers’ employment decisions. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Meyer, Bruce D.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2002

    Some previous studies have emphasized differences between labor-supply responses on the extensive margin (participation) and intensive margin (hours worked) (e.g., James J. Heckman, 1993; Jean Kimmel and Thomas J. Kniesner, 1998). Recent tax and welfare policy changes provide a potentially more convincing way of identifying these responses than is available in other nonexperimental data. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) changes during the 1990- 1996 period sharply altered the budget sets of single mothers over a short period of time. These changes in incentives are likely to be unrelated to differences across individuals in the desire to work and thus are likely to be exogenous to labor-supply decisions. This lack of exogeneity is harder to claim for wage differences across people, which are the main alternative source of identifying variation. In addition to preference heterogeneity, wages are driven by supply and demand factors that one must account for to obtain valid estimates using wage variation.

    The EITC unequivocally encourages single parents to work at least...

    Some previous studies have emphasized differences between labor-supply responses on the extensive margin (participation) and intensive margin (hours worked) (e.g., James J. Heckman, 1993; Jean Kimmel and Thomas J. Kniesner, 1998). Recent tax and welfare policy changes provide a potentially more convincing way of identifying these responses than is available in other nonexperimental data. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) changes during the 1990- 1996 period sharply altered the budget sets of single mothers over a short period of time. These changes in incentives are likely to be unrelated to differences across individuals in the desire to work and thus are likely to be exogenous to labor-supply decisions. This lack of exogeneity is harder to claim for wage differences across people, which are the main alternative source of identifying variation. In addition to preference heterogeneity, wages are driven by supply and demand factors that one must account for to obtain valid estimates using wage variation.

    The EITC unequivocally encourages single parents to work at least some hours during a year because it shifts out the budget set at all positive hours points. This first prediction is clearly confirmed by the data. In addition, theory implies that the EITC will decrease hours worked among those already working because most recipients are on the plateau or phase-out portions of the credit schedule. For these recipients, the EITC reduces or does not affect the after-tax wage while at the same time discouraging work through the income effect of the credit payment. However, recent hours-worked patterns for EITC-eligible individuals do not appear to fit this second prediction. Hours and weeks worked by likely recipient groups have not fallen. This paper analyzes this puzzling finding, building on earlier work by Nada Eissa and Jeffrey Liebman (1996) and Meyer and Dan T. Rosenbaum (1999).

    This study shows that nearly all of the labor-supply adjustment of single mothers occurs at the extensive margin, not the intensive margin. This finding raises the issue of what model features are needed to explain both participation and hours but leaves the answer to be provided in future work. This finding also suggests that the large literature simulating alternative policies for low-wage workers such as the EITC may be misleading because nearly all work has used models that imply similar responses on participation and hours margins. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Caputo, Richard K.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2003

    This study examined the role of assets in economic mobility within a youth cohort (N = 4,467) between 1985 and 1997. Increasing percentages of poor and affluent youth resided in families with no change in economic status while increasing percentages of middle-class youth resided in families experiencing downward economic mobility. The rate of economic stasis of youth living in affluent families was about three times that of those in poor families. Length of time of asset ownership influenced economic mobility beyond that of background, sociodemographic, psychological, and other cumulative correlates. In particular, IRAs and tax-deferred annuities were related to positive economic mobility. Robust indicators of positive economic mobility included being a college graduate, number of siblings in family of origin, number of years of full-time employment, number of years living in households where someone received either AFDC/TANF or SSI, and locus of control. Robust indicators of downward economic mobility included age of respondent, number of years married, and being Catholic....

    This study examined the role of assets in economic mobility within a youth cohort (N = 4,467) between 1985 and 1997. Increasing percentages of poor and affluent youth resided in families with no change in economic status while increasing percentages of middle-class youth resided in families experiencing downward economic mobility. The rate of economic stasis of youth living in affluent families was about three times that of those in poor families. Length of time of asset ownership influenced economic mobility beyond that of background, sociodemographic, psychological, and other cumulative correlates. In particular, IRAs and tax-deferred annuities were related to positive economic mobility. Robust indicators of positive economic mobility included being a college graduate, number of siblings in family of origin, number of years of full-time employment, number of years living in households where someone received either AFDC/TANF or SSI, and locus of control. Robust indicators of downward economic mobility included age of respondent, number of years married, and being Catholic. Finally, neither sex nor race/ethnicity increased the explanatory power of positive economic mobility beyond that of other correlates regardless of asset ownership. Discussion also includes public and private initiatives to expand IRAs into Individual Development Accounts and to encourage employers to offer (and workers to take advantage of) taxdeferred annuities, particularly for low-income workers. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Draut, Tamara; Silva, Javier
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2003

    Using new data, this report explores how families are increasingly using credit cards to meet their basic needs. This report also examines the factors driving this record-setting debt and the impact of deregulation on the cost, availability and marketing of credit cards...

    Credit card debt is often dismissed as the consequence of frivolous consumption. But an examination of broad structural and economic trends during the 1990s -- including stagnant or declining real wages, job displacement, and rising health care and housing costs -- suggests that many Americans are using credit cards as a way to fill a growing gap between household earnings and the costs of essential goods and services. Usurious practices in the credit card industry, in the form of high rates and fees, have taken advantage of the increased need for credit. As a result, a growing number of American families find themselves perpetually indebted to the credit card industry, which -- despite claims of losses and chargeoffs -- remains one of the most profitable sectors of the banking industry. (author...

    Using new data, this report explores how families are increasingly using credit cards to meet their basic needs. This report also examines the factors driving this record-setting debt and the impact of deregulation on the cost, availability and marketing of credit cards...

    Credit card debt is often dismissed as the consequence of frivolous consumption. But an examination of broad structural and economic trends during the 1990s -- including stagnant or declining real wages, job displacement, and rising health care and housing costs -- suggests that many Americans are using credit cards as a way to fill a growing gap between household earnings and the costs of essential goods and services. Usurious practices in the credit card industry, in the form of high rates and fees, have taken advantage of the increased need for credit. As a result, a growing number of American families find themselves perpetually indebted to the credit card industry, which -- despite claims of losses and chargeoffs -- remains one of the most profitable sectors of the banking industry. (author introduction)

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