Poverty Alleviation Policies and Health

Research has shown the crucial importance of household income in affecting health and healthy equity. Researchers at SPHERE work to better understand the health impacts of specific anti-poverty policies, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. We examine associations between these anti-poverty measures and short- and long-term health outcomes to better inform policy design and implementation.


Effects of the Child Tax Credit on Health

The US Congress temporarily expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide economic assistance for families with children. Although formerly the CTC provided $2,000 per child for mostly middle-income parents, from July-December 2021 it provided up to $3,600 per child.

Funding: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Featured Publications:

Effects of the EITC on Health  

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest poverty-alleviation program for families with children in the U.S. Established in 1975, the program provides low- and moderate-income workers with a tax refund, and it has strong bipartisan support.  Over 25 million tax filers participate in the program each year, receiving an average credit of about $2500. Certain states have also introduced similar programs for their residents. SPHERE’s research examines how these programs impact the health and wellbeing of recipients and their children. 

Funding: NHLBI K08; UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health; UCSF California Preterm Birth Initiative; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the UCSF Hellman Fellows Fund, the UCSF Irene Perstein Award

Featured Publications:  

  • Research Brief: Stressors and Supports For Californians with Low Incomes During COVID-19 (2023)
  • Understanding Take-Up Of The Earned Income Tax Credit Among Californians With Low Income. Hamad R, Gosliner W, Brown EM, Hoskote M, Jackson K, Esparza EM, Fernald LCH. Health Affairs. 2022 Dec. PubMed
  • The long-term effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit on women's physical and mental health. Jones, L.E., Wang, G., Yilmazer, T. Health Economics. 2022 Jan. PubMed
  • Racial Differences in the Association Between the U.S. Earned Income Tax Credit and Birthweight. Batra A, Karasek D, Hamad R. Women’s Health Issues. 2022 Jan-Feb. PubMed
  • Short-term effects of the earned income tax credit on children's physical and mental health. Batra A, Hamad R. Ann Epidemiol. 2021 Jun;58:15-21. PubMed
  • The effects of state earned income tax credits on mental health and health behaviors: A quasi-experimental study. Collin DF, Shields-Zeeman LS, Batra A, White JS, Tong M, Hamad R. Soc Sci Med. 2021 May. PubMed
  • Short-term effects of the earned income tax credit on mental health and health behaviors. Collin DF, Shields-Zeeman LS, Batra A, Vable AM, Rehkopf DH, Machen L, Hamad R. Prev Med. 2020 Oct. PubMed
  • The short-term effects of the earned income tax credit on health care expenditures among US adults. Hamad R, Niedzwiecki MJ. Health Serv Res. 2019 Dec. PubMed
  • How does income affect mental health and health behaviours? A quasi-experimental study of the earned income tax credit. Shields-Zeeman L, Collin DF, Batra A, Hamad R. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2021 Oct. PubMed
  • Estimating the Short-Term Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Child Health. Hamad R, Collin DF,Rehkopf DH. Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Dec.  PubMed

EITC Take-Up

While the federal and state EITC programs have been shown to lower the poverty rate and improve health, not everyone who is eligible for these programs participates in them. Our research looks at EITC take-up rates and seeks to understand the barriers to participation and how to boost participation among eligible families.

Funding: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Tipping Point, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, UC Berkeley Population Center

Featured Publications: