La Follette event highlights real-world effects of tax credit policies

Panelists sit at a table together in the Pyle Center
“This event was an excellent example of the Wisconsin Idea in action, something that the La Follette School takes very seriously,” said Professor Emerita Barbara Wolfe, who co-hosted the event.

Nearly five dozen scholars, legislators, and community leaders came together on the UW–Madison campus on October 4 to learn about the latest research on the social impacts of tax credits.

Watch recordingPresentation summaries (pdf)

Professor Emerita Barbara Wolfe and Professor Yang Wang of the La Follette School hosted the event, which was the culmination of their Herb Kohl Public Research project. The panelists included Katie Jajtner from the Retirement and Disability Research Center in UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty, Assistant Professor Jessica Pac from UW–Madison’s Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, Assistant Professor Kaitlyn Sims from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and Professor Emeritus Tim Smeeding of the La Follette School.

The scholars presented their work to a packed Alumni Lounge overlooking Lake Mendota from the Pyle Center. While many of the attendees were academics from various departments at UW–Madison, several legislators and community leaders made the trip to campus for this important discussion.

“I was impressed with the turnout from lawmakers. Representatives from eight legislative offices were in the audience, despite it being a busy day at the Capitol. This shows how much interest there is in finding effective tax credit policies that can benefit families across Wisconsin,” Wang said.

Focusing on the earned income tax credit (EITC), Jajtner’s research suggested that EITC payments might lead to a slight increase in upward health mobility, meaning it might help mitigate the parent-child health link that often ties a child’s health to that of their parents. Sims’ research found no consistent relationship between EITC expansions and domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

Professor Emeritus Tim Smeeding speaks at a podium
Professor Emeritus Tim Smeeding discussed his research on the Child Tax Credit at the event.

Pac and Smeeding discussed the child tax credit (CTC), a refundable credit similar to a child allowance. Pac’s research found that the credit is not associated with a significant decline in employment and that it is used to subsidize unpaid leave for parents with infants.

Smeeding’s research highlighted how the CTC does not always reach families where the children live with Social Security beneficiaries. His presentation also provided some recommendations to improve CTC implementation, including the suggestion of lowering the income threshold to save money in the program.

Professor Michael Massoglia of the Department of Sociology and Professor Jeffrey Smith of the Department of Economics served as discussants to extend the conversations around the research. Additionally, members of the audience were able to ask questions of the panelists over a catered lunch after the presentations. Considering the diverse audience, which included lawmakers, it was an opportunity for a dialogue that could have real-world implications.

“This event was an excellent example of the Wisconsin Idea in action, something that the La Follette School takes very seriously,” Wolfe said. “I’m hopeful that the research presented can inform policymaking decisions around the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. These can be important pieces of the puzzle for the wellbeing of families and children.”

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