US earned income tax credit and child-parent time use

Visiting academic, Dr. Taryn Morrissey, gave a public seminar to discuss the role of one-off income boosts for low-income families in parents' time with children.

Dr. Morrissey’s new study examines whether the addition of household resources via the receipt of the U.S. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) affects short-term parent-child time use patterns. The findings shed light on how additional resources affect family functioning, how these patterns differ for mothers versus fathers, and in single-parent families, and may exacerbate gendered patterns in time use.

Using difference-in-differences analyses that exploit seasonal variation in EITC refund receipt with nationally representative time-diary data from the 2003-2017 American Time Use Survey-Current Population Survey (ATUS-CPS), she estimates the plausibly causal effects of EITC receipt on the quantity and quality of parent-child time use. Results suggest that receipt of EITC refunds is associated with short-term increases in mothers’ time with children, particularly unmarried women, some of which is spent in eating and food preparation activities.

In contrast, EITC receipt is associated with short-term decreases in fathers’ time with children. EITC receipt also predicts short-term decreases in women’s and men’s time spent in child-related educational activities and in parent-child engagement in enriching activities. Some of this evidence, however, suggests that these enriching time effects may be attributed to seasonal fluctuations. Findings shed light on how additional resources affect family functioning and may exacerbate gendered patterns in time use.

Research and policy implications were discussed.


Dr. Taryn Morrissey is a School of Public Affairs Dean’s Scholar Associate Professor of Public Policy at American University. Her work focuses on examining and improving public policies for vulnerable children, including early care and education, nutrition assistance, and public health policies. She is co-author of Cradle to Kindergarten: A new plan to combat inequality (Russell Sage, 2017).

Dr. Morrissey has served in senior policy positions at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and on the staff of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. She began her career in policy as a Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) / American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Fellow. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology.