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SURVEY: EITC Offers Financial Relief and Dignity to Low-Income Workers

April 28, 2015

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) confers self-respect and dignity on low-income workers in addition to providing significant financial relief, a survey published in the April American Sociological Review found.

The survey’s authors interviewed 115 EITC filers — including 40 married couples filing jointly — in 2007. All had at least one dependent child, and the vast majority (87 percent) earned less than $35,000 in the previous tax year. The filers worked low-wage jobs in a variety of fields — fast food, childcare, maintenance, and home care.

Nearly half of home care workers live in households that receive one or more public benefits, including the EITC, according to a recent report by the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.

The respondents said they were barely able to afford necessities, and that they worried about “job security, losing hours, or the limited career ladders within their organizations.”

Their yearly EITC benefits, which typically represented one fifth of filers’ yearly incomes, therefore came as a huge financial relief, the survey reported.

Sandra Rose, a home health aide and single mother, told researchers that without her EITC, she and her two children would “have to go live down [under] the bridge.” Rose used her credit to pay $2,000 toward overdue gas and electric bills.

Respondents also reported that the EITC cultivates feelings of self-worth and social inclusion, particularly when compared to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

“While in reality both EITC and TANF recipients are drawing on government assistance, the identities that accompany the two programs differ: worker versus dependent,” the researchers write.

“In summary, the EITC seems to bolster recipients’ self-respect by emphasizing their role as working parents,” they add.

— by Matthew Ozga

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