Richard Caputo 

Dr. Richard Caputo (left), professor of social policy and research and director of the doctoral program at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, is working on a longitudinal study on the usage or take-up rate of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“The EITC lifts a substantial number of people out of poverty, second only to Social Security in its anti-poverty effects,” said Dr. Caputo, who has devoted his career to examining the history of social welfare policies in the United States and their utilization by low-income individuals and families in order to break the cycle of poverty.

According to Dr. Caputo, while around 22 million individuals utilize the EITC, many others may not be taking advantage of this flexibility in the tax code. He is looking at existing national data files, known as the National Longitudinal Surveys (NLS) administered through the U.S. Department of Labor with cooperation from the U.S. Census Bureau, to identify at the national level EITC eligible, non-participating individuals.

Dr. Caputo explained that while there are very rich sources of national level data open to the public, the NLS also makes available restrictive data files that require institutional contracts and oversight before they can be accessed by researchers. (Yeshiva University supports this arrangement and oversight.) It is a worthwhile investment, Dr. Caputo said, because “you can get good county and good state data and carve out major sections like the New York metropolitan area.”

Dr. Caputo suggested that more low-income workers would file tax returns if social service agencies would partner with tax-preparation companies that could provide this service free or at low-cost to the filer. He said research has shown that federal social welfare policies such as EITC have been as successful as Social Security has in lifting low-income individuals out of poverty. The message from the federal government, he added, is “We’ll reward you if you’re working.”


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