The earned income tax credit (EITC) is the largest U.S. poverty alleviation program for families with children, and state EITC policies provide a modest supplement to the federal program . Yet there are few studies of the effects of state EITC policies on population health . We examined whether state EITC policies affect mental health and health behaviors . Participants were drawn from the 1995-2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a diverse national cohort study (N = 10,567). We used a quasi-experimental difference-in-differences analysis to examine the effects of state EITC programs among eligible individuals, accounting for secular trends among similar individuals in non-EITC states . Outcomes included self-reported general health, psychological distress, alcohol use, and smoking . The mean size of state EITC refunds in our sample was $265 for eligible individuals . In the overall sample, state EITC programs were not associated with any health outcomes of interest . This finding was robust to alternative specifications, and similar in subgroup analyses by gender and marital status . This study suggests that state EITC programs, which tend to provide smaller refunds than the federal program, may not be large enough to have a positive impact on mental health and health behaviors . These findings may inform policymaking related to the generosity of state EITC programs, especially as states seek to address the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Index: Difference-in-differences, Earned income tax credit, Health behaviors, Mental health, Policy evaluation, Poverty alleviation