Racial Differences in the Association between the U.S. Earned Income Tax Credit and Birthweight

  • Akansha Batra
    Correspondence to: Akansha Batra, MS, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco, 550 16th St, MH 1106, San Francisco, CA 94158. Phone: 6282063723.
    Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
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  • Deborah Karasek
    Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California

    California Preterm Birth Initiative, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
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  • Rita Hamad
    Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California

    Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California
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Published:October 12, 2021DOI:



      We examined whether the largest U.S. poverty alleviation program for families, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), has different associations with birthweight among women of different racial backgrounds.


      We analyzed data from the 1985–2015 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a longitudinal cohort study of U.S. families (N = 5,230 infants born to 3,672 women). The primary outcome was a continuous measure of birthweight, with secondary outcomes including low birthweight (LBW) and very LBW. Using rich sociodemographic data available in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we calculated the amount of EITC benefit for which women were eligible. We then examined the association of EITC benefit size with each outcome using multivariable regressions, examining the sample overall as well as racial subgroups (White, Black, or other).


      We found that larger EITC benefits were not associated with increased infant birthweight for the overall sample (18.37 g per $1,000 of EITC; 95% confidence interval [CI], −2.62 to 33.36). There was an increase in birthweight for Black women (40.17 g; 95% CI: 7.32 to 73.02), but not for White women (−1.86 g; 95% CI, −33.33 to 29.60) or women of other races (−13.26 g; 95% CI, −75.90 to 49.38). There was no association between EITC benefit size and the probability of LBW or very LBW. Results were robust to alternative model specifications.


      Social policies to address poverty may be effective at decreasing racial disparities in birthweight. Future work should examine potential mechanisms and the benefits of improved health outcomes for children later in life.
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      Akansha Batra, MS, is a doctoral student at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco. She is passionate to evaluate how social and economic policies address health disparities and their effect on mental health.


      Deborah Karasek, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UCSF School of Medicine. Her research applies a health equity lens to explore how economic and social policy impact the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their families.


      Rita Hamad, MD, PhD, is an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Family & Community Medicine and Institute for Health Policy Studies. As a social epidemiologist and family physician, she examines social policies' effects on health disparities across the lifespan.