Transfers and work supports such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) increase family resources, and may enable households to make critical investments in their members’ health and human capital. Yet not all eligible households claim this tax credit, losing out on income support that can have potentially large effects on health, education, and other dimensions of well-being.
Leveraging a unique data linkage between income tax records and social service enrollments (covering Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF) for the state of California, the research team will first measure take-up of the CalEITC and determine how many families are eligible, but are not claiming it.
Second, the team will generate observational and quasi-experimental estimates of the impact of the EITC on health outcomes using vital statistics (birth and death) records and hospital utilization data from the state’s public hospitals. To try to determine potential causal pathways between the EITC and health outcomes, the team will include detailed controls for other family economic circumstances, and then use recent changes in the CalEITC to compare families that benefitted from those changes to earlier families who would have qualified had the expansion been in place. In addition, the team will explore using EITC eligibility thresholds, such as the child’s birthdate or the age of the household head, to support a regression discontinuity design.
These studies will move forward the literature on this topic, which relies mostly on survey evidence rather than individual-level administrative data.
The study is being conducted under the California Policy Lab, which is developing research partnerships with the California agencies that make it possible to conduct the necessary data linking and analysis.
Building on prior conflicting studies in the International Journal of Epidemiology and the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers Daniel F. Collin, Laura S. Shields-Zeeman, Akansha Batra, Anusha M. Vable, David H. Rehkopf, Leah Machen, and Rita Hamad evaluated seasonal variation in the health effects of the EITC among U.S. adults in this study published in Preventive Medicine.
Childhood poverty is associated with worse health outcomes, including poor physical and cognitive development, and can adversely influence social and health outcomes in later life. While there is increasing interest in policies to address childhood poverty, limited research exists on whether current U.S. poverty alleviation policies, including the largest such program, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), improve children's health.