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The True Tax Rates Confronting Families With Children

The panoply of U.S. tax and transfer programs often act in concert to penalize low-income families who increase their work effort or marry, by saddling them with high effective marginal tax rates. These effective marginal tax rates-often the product of multiple, hidden phase-outs in benefit programs like the EITC, Food Stamps, and Medicaid-are often higher for low-to-middle income families with children earning between $10,000 and $40,000 than they are for more well-to-do families earning above, $90,000. Rates can be so high that families lose nearly a dollar in program benefits for every additional dollar of earnings income they bring in.

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