When I graduated law school in 2008, I got rejection letter after rejection letter. I applied for every job you could imagine – part time, full time, hourly, salaried – the jobs just weren’t there. I eventually landed in a great office, but many millennials–those born between 1981 and 1997—who were just graduating high school, college, or from graduate programs, weren’t so lucky.
The job market was the worst in decades – record high unemployment rates, collapse of the Big Three, and the bursting of the housing bubble made jobs scarce. Census comparisons released at the end of last year showed that millennials have lower median earnings and are living in poverty at a higher percentage than their parents were at the same age, despite having a higher percentage of the population with postsecondary education. Additionally, millennials are more burdened with student debt than previous generations. The economic downturn resulted in a record high percentage of young adults moving back in with their parents.
This is precisely why young people should care about the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. The EITC is a refundable tax credit intended to at least partially offset federal payroll taxes of low- to moderate-income working taxpayers. The credit amount varies depending on marital status, number of dependent children, and annual income. The Child Tax Credit, which intends to reduce the cost of child rearing, provides a $1,000 credit per eligible child and may be partially refundable. According to the latest data, more than 800,000 taxpayers in Michigan received the EITC and more than 525,000 received the refundable portion of the CTC in 2013. These tax credits encourage work, help lift families out of poverty, and improve the lives of children.
According to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 13.9 million millennials nationwide received the EITC, refundable part of the CTC, or both in 2012. The credits averaged $2,200 and $1,300, respectively. Michigan had the 10th highest number of recipients among all states and Washington DC at 393,000. Nationwide, the EITC and CTC together helped keep 1.8 million millennials, and their 1.9 million children, out of poverty.
Expansions enacted in 2009 and later extended, boosted both the EITC and CTC, allowing more individuals to qualify and providing for greater tax relief. However, these expansions are set to expire at the end of 2017. If we allow these to lapse, 6.3 million young people, including 195,000 in Michigan, will lose all or part of their EITC or CTC, pushing about two-thirds of them into or deeper into poverty.
The good news is that many proposals recommend keeping the EITC and CTC as they are currently structured and some recommend expanding the EITC. Interestingly, President Obama and Congressman Ryan have similar proposals to expand the EITC for more childless workers. This would disproportionately benefit young workers, who are waiting longer to get married or have kids than previous generations.
The Great Recession was hard on a lot of people, and while we are recovering, we haven’t fully recovered. Extending and expanding the EITC and the CTC is just good policy. Congress should move sooner on these provisions, to provide certainty and stability, instead of waiting until the last minute.
– Rachel Richards