The Undeserving Poor?: Welfare, Tax Policy, and Political Discourse

100 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2004

See all articles by Dorothy A. Brown

Dorothy A. Brown

Emory University School of Law

Stacy Dickert-Conlin

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research

Scott Houser

California State University, Fresno - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 2004

Abstract

Low-income taxpayers are politically unpopular these days. Last summer's child tax rebates were not sent to 12 million low-income families and beginning this year, low-income taxpayers will have to prove their eligibility for tax benefits before receiving them. This Article argues that low-income taxpayers are politically unpopular because of the perceptions held about them.

Low-income taxpayers are perceived to be disproportionately Black by both politicians and academics. Politicians recently played the "race card" by analogizing low-income taxpayer rebates to welfare. Academics simply stated that low-income taxpayers who are eligible for the earned income tax credit were Black and disproportionately benefited from the credit. This Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of low-income taxpayers and shows that twice as many Whites as Blacks are eligible for the earned income tax credit. This Article also shows that the tax benefits available to low-income taxpayers disadvantage low-income Black families when compared with the tax benefits available to middle-income families. This Article concludes by suggesting areas for tax reform that would treat low-income families like their middle-income counterparts.

Suggested Citation

Brown, Dorothy Andrea and Dickert-Conlin, Stacy and Houser, Scott, The Undeserving Poor?: Welfare, Tax Policy, and Political Discourse (April 2004). Washington & Lee Public Law Research Paper No. 04-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=530223 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.530223

Dorothy Andrea Brown (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-8218 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.emory.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/dorothy-a-brown.html

Stacy Dickert-Conlin

Syracuse University - Center for Policy Research ( email )

Syracuse, NY 13244
United States
315-443-3232 (Phone)
315-443-1081 (Fax)

Scott Houser

California State University, Fresno - Department of Economics ( email )

5245 N. Backer
Fresno, CA 93740
United States

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