Can antipoverty programmes save lives? Quasi-experimental evidence from the Earned Income Tax Credit in the USA

Peter Muennig, Daniel Vail, Jahn K. Hakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective To estimate the impact of state-level supplements of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on mortality in the USA. The EITC supplements the wages of lower-income workers by providing larger returns when taxes are filed. Setting Nationwide sample spanning 25 cohorts of people across every state in the USA. Participants 793 000 respondents within the National Longitudinal Mortality Survey (NLMS) between 1986 and 2011, a representative sample of the USA. Intervention State-level supplementation to the EITC programme. Some, but not all, states added EITC supplementation to varying degrees beginning in 1986 (Wisconsin) and most recently in 2015 (California). Participants who were eligible in states with supplementary programmes were compared with those who were not eligible for supplementation. Comparisons were made both before and after implementation of the supplementary programme (a difference-in-difference, intent-to-treat analysis). This quasi-experimental approach further controls for age, gender, marital status, race or ethnicity, educational attainment, income and employment status. Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcome measure was survival at 10 years. Secondary outcome measures included survival at 5 years and survival to the end of the intervention period. Results We find an association between state supplemental EITC and survival, with a HR of 0.973 (95% CI=0.951-0.996) for each US$100 of EITC increase (p<0.05). Conclusion State-level supplemental EITC may be an effective means of increasing survival in the USA.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere037051
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Health policy
  • Public health
  • Social medicine


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