The U.S. economy will not operate at its full potential unless government and employers remove impediments to full participation by women in the labor market. The failure to address structural problems in labor markets, tax, and employment policy that women face does more than hold back their careers and aspirations for a better life. Barriers to participation by women also act as brakes on the national economy, stifling the economy’s ability to grow. To address these problems, The Hamilton Project published this book featuring a host of public policies to promote women’s economic opportunity.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit that promotes work. Despite the strong evidence for the effectiveness of the EITC and recent bipartisan expansions, the maximum EITC has been frozen in inflation-adjusted terms for most families since 1996, so the 25 million EITC families with fewer than three children have not seen a real increase in more than 20 years. The authors propose to build on the successes of the EITC with a ten percent across-the-board increase in the federal credit. This expansion would provide a meaningful offset to stagnating real wages, encourage more people to enter employment, lift approximately 600,000 individuals out of poverty, and improve health and education outcomes for millions of children.
The experience of the Great Recession reveals important holes in the safety net. In particular, the central cash-assistance program in the United States, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is failing to reach many poor families. In addition, the program does not automatically expand during economic downturns, when the need for the program is likely greatest and when additional consumer spending would be particularly helpful. To strengthen TANF, Marianne Bitler and Hilary Hoynes propose reforms to expand both the program’s reach and its responsiveness to cyclical downturns. They also propose ways to improve its transparency, which will help researchers and policymakers understand how the program works, who it supports, and how effectively it meets its goals.
In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.