The earned income tax credit and food insecurity

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Although previous work on the earned income tax credit (EITC) has established that the program improves health outcomes of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, not much is known about the possible pathways through which higher EITC benefits affect health. This study contributes to the literature by evaluating the role of food insecurity as a mechanism underlying the relationship between the EITC and health. Using the 2009 federal EITC expansion, which increased benefit generosity for eligible families with three or more children, I estimate difference‐in‐differences (DD) and difference‐in‐difference‐in‐differences (DDD) models to evaluate whether the policy change is associated with improvements in food security. My analysis finds that the program expansion, which increased predicted annual EITC benefits by $496, is associated with a reduction in the likelihood of experiencing food insecurity by 8.1% for low‐educated households with three children. The observed improvements in food security are larger for non‐married households, a group that has previously been shown to be strongly affected by EITC changes. An evaluation of variations in state‐level EITC laws provides further indication that more generous benefits reduce food insecurity. The results, which are robust to estimating several alternative specifications, provide evidence that higher EITC benefits improve the well‐being of low‐income households by reducing food insecurity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Early online date23 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Dec 2022


  • earned income tax credit (EITC)
  • expansion
  • food insecurity


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