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Improving Population Health by Reducing Poverty: New York’s Earned Income Tax Credit

Written by Build Healthy Places Staff on February 23, 2015

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Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Improve Health?

Poverty and health have a well-established relationship: lower socioeconomic status leads to worse health outcomes. Yet research has rarely tested the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs at improving health. In this paper, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Peter Arno of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, examine the health effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest anti-poverty program for working families operating throughout the U.S. The authors find that New York’s EITC program reduced the low birth weight rate in poor neighborhoods, an important health indicator. The study is the first to analyze EITC’s impact on neighborhoods, rather than households, and finds a concentrated health benefit in high poverty areas.