, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 1303–1326 | Cite as

The Effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Housing and Living Arrangements

  • Natasha PilkauskasEmail author
  • Katherine Michelmore


As rents have risen and wages have not kept pace, housing affordability in the United States has declined over the last 15 years, impacting the housing and living arrangements of low-income families. Housing subsidies improve the housing situations of low-income families, but less than one in four eligible families receive a voucher. In this article, we analyze whether one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the United States—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)—affects the housing (eviction, homelessness, and affordability) and living arrangements (doubling up, number of people in the household, and crowding) of low-income families. Using the Current Population Survey, the American Community Survey/decennial census, and the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we employ a parameterized difference-in-differences strategy to examine whether policy-induced expansions to the EITC affect the housing and living arrangements of single mothers. Results suggest that a $1,000 increase in the EITC improves housing by reducing housing cost burdens, but it has no effect on eviction or homelessness. Increases in the EITC also reduce doubling up (living with additional, nonnuclear family adults)—in particular, doubling up in someone else’s home—and reduce three-generation/multigenerational coresidence, suggesting that mothers have a preference to live independently. We find weak evidence for a reduction in overall household size, yet the EITC does reduce household crowding. Although the EITC is not an explicit housing policy, expansions to the EITC are generally linked with improved housing outcomes for single mothers and their children.


EITC Housing Living arrangements Doubling up Household instability 



The authors thank Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan for funding for this project. This project was supported by Award No. R01HD036916 awarded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health & Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development or the National Institutes of Health.

Supplementary material

13524_2019_791_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.9 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1965 kb)


  1. Augustine, J. M., & Raley, R. K. (2013). Multigenerational households and the school readiness of children born to unmarried mothers. Journal of Family Issues, 34, 431–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bastian, J., & Michelmore, K. (2018). The long-term impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on children’s education and employment outcomes. Journal of Labor Economics, 36, 1127–1163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berger, L. M., Font, S. A., Slack, K. S., & Waldfogel, J. (2017). Income and child maltreatment in unmarried families: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Review of Economics of the Household, 15, 1345–1372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bitler, M. P., Gelbach, J. B., & Hoynes, H. W. (2006). Welfare reform and children’s living arrangements. Journal of Human Resources, 41, 1–27.Google Scholar
  5. Bratt, R. G. (2002). Housing and family well-being. Housing Studies, 17, 13–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burgard, S. A., Seefedt, K. S., & Zelner, S. (2012). Housing instability and health: Findings from the Michigan recession and recovery study. Social Science & Medicine, 75, 2215–2224.Google Scholar
  7. Carlson, D., Haveman, R., Kaplan, T., & Wolfe, B. (2012). Long-term effects of public low-income housing vouchers on neighborhood quality and household composition. Journal of Housing Economics, 21, 101–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. (2018). Policy basics: The Earned Income Tax Credit. Retrieved from
  9. Chase-Lansdale, P. L., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Zamsky, E. S. (1994). Young African-American multigenerational families in poverty: Quality of mothering and grandmothering. Child Development, 65, 373–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chetty, R., Hendren, N., & Katz, L. (2016). The effects of exposure to better neighborhoods on children: New evidence from the Moving to Opportunity project. American Economic Review, 106, 855–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clampet-Lundquist, S., & Massey, D. S. (2008). Neighborhood effects on economic self-sufficiency: A reconsideration of the Moving to Opportunity experiment. American Journal of Sociology, 114, 107–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Currie, J. (2004). The take up of social benefits (NBER Working Paper No. 10488). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  13. Currie, J., & Gruber, J. (1996). Health insurance eligibility, utilization of medical care, and child health. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 111, 431–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Currie, J., & Yelowitz, A. (2000). Are public housing projects good for kids? Journal of Public Economics, 75, 99–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dahl, G. B., & Lochner, L. (2012). The impact of family income on child achievement: Evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit. American Economic Review, 102, 1927–1956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dahl, M., DeLeire, T., & Schwabish, J. (2009). Stepping stone or dead end? The effect of the EITC on earnings growth. National Tax Journal, 62, 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeLeire, T., & Kalil, A. (2002). Good things come in threes: Single-parent multigenerational family structure and adolescent adjustment. Demography, 39, 393–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. New York, NY: Crown.Google Scholar
  19. Desmond, M., & Gershenson, C. (2016). Housing and employment insecurity among the working poor. Social Problems, 63, 46–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Desmond, M., & Perkins, K. L. (2016). Housing and household instability. Urban Affairs Review, 52, 421–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dickert-Conlin, S., & Houser, S. (2002). EITC and marriage. National Tax Journal, 55, 25–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Edin, K., & Lein, L. (1997). Making ends meet: How single mothers survive welfare and low-wage work. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  23. Edin, K. J., & Shaefer, H. L. (2015). $2.00 a day: Living on almost nothing in America. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar
  24. Ellen, I. G. (2017). What do we know about housing choice vouchers? (NYU Furman Center working paper). New York, NY: Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Retrieved from
  25. Engelhardt, G. V., Gruber, J., & Perry, C. D. (2005). Social Security and elderly living arrangements: Evidence from the Social Security notch. Journal of Human Resources, 40, 354–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Evans, G. W., Lepore, S. J., Shejwal, B. R., & Palsane, M. N. (1998). Chronic residential crowding and children’s well-being: An ecological perspective. Child Development, 69, 1514–1523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Evans, W. N., Sullivan, J. X., & Wallskog, M. (2016). The impact of homelessness prevention programs on homelessness. Science, 353, 694–699.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Feenberg, D. R., & Coutts, E. (1993). An introduction to the TAXSIM model. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 12, 189–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gubits, D., Shinn, M., Wood, M., Bell, S., Dastrup, S., Solari, C. D., . . . , Abt Associates. (2016). Family Options Study: 3-year impacts of housing and services interventions for homeless families. Washington, DC: Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved from
  30. Halpern-Meekin, S., Edin, K., Tach, L., & Sykes, J. (2015). It’s not like I’m poor: How working families make ends meet in a post-welfare world. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hao, L., & Brinton, M. C. (1997). Productive activities and support systems of single mothers. American Journal of Sociology, 102, 1305–1344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Harvey, H. (2017, August). When mothers can’t “pay the cost to be the boss”: Roles and identity within doubled-up households. Winner of the SSSP Family Division Graduate Student Paper Award at the 67th annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.Google Scholar
  33. Herbst, C. M. (2011). The impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on marriage and divorce: Evidence from flow data. Population Research and Policy Review, 30, 101–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoynes, H. W., & Patel, A. J. (2018). Effective policy for reducing poverty and inequality? The Earned Income Tax Credit and the distribution of income. Journal of Human Resources, 53, 859–890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jacob, B. A. (2004). Public housing, housing vouchers, and student achievement: Evidence from public housing demolitions in Chicago. American Economic Review, 94, 233–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Jacob, B. A., & Ludwig, J. (2012). The effects of housing assistance on labor supply: Evidence from a voucher lottery. American Economic Review, 102, 272–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). (2017). The state of the nation’s housing 2017 (Report). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, Joint Center for Housing Studies.Google Scholar
  38. Jones, L. E., & Michelmore, K. (2018). The impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on household finances. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 37, 521–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Katz, L. F., Kling, J. R., & Liebman, J. B. (2001). Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early results of a randomized mobility experiment. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116 , 607–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kling, J. R., Liebman, J. B., & Katz, L. F. (2007). Experimental analysis of neighborhood effects. Econometrica, 75, 83–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Labella, M. H., Narayan, A. J., McCormick, C. M., Desjardins, C. D., & Masten, A. S. (2019). Risk and adversity, parenting quality, and children’s social-emotional adjustment in families experiencing homelessness. Child Development, 90, 227–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Leopold, J., Getsinger, L., Blumenthal, P., Abazajian, K., & Jordan, R. (2015). The housing affordability gap for extremely low-income renters in 2013 (Report). Washington, DC: Urban Institute.Google Scholar
  43. Leventhal, T., & Newman, S. (2010). Housing and child development. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1165–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lopoo, L. M., & London, A. S. (2016). Household crowding during childhood and long-term education outcomes. Demography, 53, 699–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ludwig, J., Duncan, G. J., Gennetian, L. A., Katz, L. F., Kessler, R. C., Kling, J. R., & Sanbonmatsu, L. (2013). Long-term neighborhood effects on low-income families: Evidence from Moving to Opportunity. American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings, 103, 226–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Meyer, B., & Rosenbaum, D. T. (2001). Welfare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the labor supply of single mothers. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116, 1063–1114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Michelmore, K. (2018). The Earned Income Tax Credit and union formation: The impact of expected spouse earnings. Review of Economics of the Household, 16, 377–406.Google Scholar
  48. Mills, G., Gubits, D., Orr, L., Long, D., Feins, J., Kaul, B., . . . , the QED Group. (2006). Effects of housing vouchers on welfare families (Report). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.Google Scholar
  49. Mollborn, S., Fomby, P., & Dennis, J. A. (2011). Who matters for children’s early development? Race/ethnicity and extended household structures in the United States. Child Indicators Research, 4, 389–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mykyta, L., & Macartney, S. (2012). Sharing a household: Household composition and economic well-being: 2007–2010 (Current Population Report No. P60–242). Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau, Economics and Statistics Administration.Google Scholar
  51. National Center for Homeless Education. (2011). Education for homeless children and youth program: Data collection summary. Washington, DC: National Center for Homeless Education.Google Scholar
  52. Nobari, T. Z., Whaley, S. E., Blumenberg, E., Prelip, M. L., & Wang, M. C. (2019). Severe housing-cost burden and obesity among preschool-aged low-income children in Los Angeles County. Preventive Medicine Reports, 13, 139–145.Google Scholar
  53. Pilkauskas, N. V. (2012). Three-generation family households: Differences by family structure at birth. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 931–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pilkauskas, N. V. (2014). Living with a grandparent and parent in early childhood: Associations with school readiness and differences by demographic characteristics. Developmental Psychology, 50, 2587–2599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pilkauskas, N. V., & Cross, C. (2018). Beyond the nuclear family: Trends in children living in shared households. Demography, 55, 2283–2297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pilkauskas, N. V., Garfinkel, I., & McLanahan, S. S. (2014). The prevalence and economic value of doubling up. Demography, 51, 1667–1676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Reyes, A. M. (2018). The economic organization of extended family households by race or ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Journal of Marriage and Family, 80, 119–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ruggles, S., Flood, S., Goeken, R., Grover, J., Meyer, E., Pacas, J., & Sobek, M. (2018). IPUMS USA: Version 8.0 [Data set]. Minneapolis, MN: IPUMS.
  59. Skobba, K., & Goetz, E. G. (2015). Doubling up and the erosion of social capital among very low income households. International Journal of Housing Policy, 15, 127–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Smith, J. A., McPherson, M., & Smith-Lovin, L. (2014). Social distance in the United States: Sex, race, religion, age, and education homophily among confidants, 1985 to 2004. American Sociological Review, 79, 432–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stack, C. B. (1975). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  62. Stegman, M. A., Davis, W. R., & Quercia, R. (2004). The Earned Income Tax Credit as an instrument of housing policy. Housing Policy Debate, 15, 203–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tax Policy Center. (2006). EITC distribution by filing status, 2000, 2003. Retrieved from
  64. Wright, B. R., Caspi, A., Moffit, T. E., & Silva, P. (1998). Factors associated with doubled-up housing—A common precursor to homelessness. Social Service Review, 72, 92–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ziol-Guest, K. M., & McKenna, C. C. (2014). Early childhood housing instability and school readiness. Child Development, 85, 103–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gerald R. Ford School of Public PolicyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public AffairsSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA

Personalised recommendations