The effects of the earned income tax credit on the occupational group wages of low income workers



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Annually, over 25 million people in the United States receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Nearly 5 million of those people are lifted out of poverty by the wage supplement the credit provides. A wide body of literature supplies evidence for the positive labor force participation effects of the EITC. However, little is known about the effects of the additional labor supply on the wages of low-income workers. This report employs state-level panel data to estimate the influence of EITC visibility and benefit levels on the wages of occupation groups with high shares of EITC eligible workers. Using OLS regression, I find that a 10 percent increase in the share of the population claiming the EITC corresponds with a 0.3 to 2.2 percent decrease in the median wages of high-EITC eligible sectors, relative to overall median wages. Further, a 10 percent increase in the maximum benefit level of the EITC corresponds with a 0.1 to 0.8 percent decrease in median wages in occupation groups with large shares of EITC eligible workers, relative to overall median wages. These findings provide useful information to policymakers regarding the unintended consequences of the EITC. Policy recommendations include increasing the credit value for childless adults, regularly adjusting the minimum wage for inflation, and financially penalizing employers who engage in unsavory wage behavior.