The Earned Income Tax Credit and Expected Social Security Retirement Benefits Among Low-Income Women: Working Paper 2012-06

Working Paper
March 5, 2012

By Molly Dahl, Jonathan Schwabish, Thomas DeLeire, and Timothy Smeeding

Expansions in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are associated with increases in formal employment and increases in long-term year-over-year growth in earnings for single mothers. In this study, we examine whether expansions in the EITC are likely to lead to increases in Social Security retirement benefits for less-educated women (those likely to be affected by the EITC) by increasing their employment and earnings when young.

The increases in benefits could occur through two channels: First, as the EITC pulls additional less-educated women into market work, those women may accrue more quarters of employment and thus be more likely to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Second, to the extent that the EITC leads to increased earnings growth, less-educated women may qualify for higher benefits.

We rely on administrative earnings data from the Social Security Administration and existing estimates of the effect of the EITC on employment and earnings growth to simulate the impact of an EITC expansion on the future Social Security retirement benefits of less-educated women. The results of this simulation suggest that the EITC leads to an increase in the share of less-educated women that will be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and leads to an increase in their monthly benefit amount. Thus, the existence of the EITC contributes to the financial security of affected women as they age and retire.