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“The Rise of Working Mothers and the 1975 Earned Income Tax Credit”

Winner of the 2016 Michael J. Moore Dissertation Prize for Best Paper in Applied Microeconomics

Presented at the 2017 Population Association of America (planned); the 2016 Society of Labor EconomistsNational Tax AssociationAssociation for Public Policy Analysis & ManagementCleveland State University, University of Michigan, Economic History Association (poster), International Institute of Public FinanceWestern Economic Association; the 2015 Southern Economic AssociationNational Tax AssociationMannheim Tax ConferenceAssociation for Public Policy Analysis & ManagementMidwest Economic Association; and the 2014 University of Michigan H2D2 Research Conference (poster).


The rise of working mothers radically changed the U.S. economy and the role of women in society. Time-series data show a rapid increase in the employment of mothers — relative to women without children — beginning in the mid-1970s. In one of the first systematic studies of the 1975 introduction of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), I find that this program led to a 4-percentage-point (or 7 percent) rise in maternal employment — representing about one million mothers — and conclude that the EITC can help explain why the U.S. has such a high fraction of working mothers despite few childcare subsidies or parental-leave policies. I then test whether the EITC affected attitudes towards working women. I find that states with larger EITC responses — and larger predicted responses based on pre-1975 demographic and occupational traits — had larger post-1975 increases in attitudes approving of women working. Results are largest among lower-education men — who were most exposed to these newly working women — and do not appear to be driven by pre-1975 attitudes, demographic changes, or general trends in social norms. I also use racial attitudes as a placebo outcome. As a check on whether large increases of female workers can affect social attitudes, I also find attitude changes from increased female employment during World War II.

Press Coverage: Gender Matters


"The Intergenerational Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Education and Employment Outcomes"
      with Kathy Michelmore (Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Labor Economics)

"Unintended Consequences? More Marriage, More Children, and the EITC"


"The Role of the Earned Income Tax Credit in the Narrowing of the Gender Wage Gap" with Martha Bailey

"Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Pay for Itself? Evidence from State Tax Revenue"

"The Impact of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the Black-White Income Gap: 50 Years Later

"How Much of the Gender and Racial Wage Gap Can Be Explained by Discriminatory Attitudes?"

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