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Economy and Taxes

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Clear nonpartisan analysis of fiscal and tax policy enables policymakers and the public to weigh competing theories on how to end the country’s economic crisis. Urban Institute researchers evaluated key components of the stimulus package and analyzed the tax proposals in the president’s budget. Warning decisionmakers about the unsustainable fiscal course ahead, our experts propose ways to control deficits and reform the entitlement programs that drive up spending. Read more.

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Taxes and Inequality (Research Report)
Leonard E. Burman

This paper reviews historical trends in economic inequality and tax policy’s role in reducing it. It documents the various reasons why income inequality continues to rise, paying particular attention to the interplay between regressive and progressive federal and state taxes. The report also considers the trade-off between the social welfare gains that a more equal distribution of incomes would provide, and the economic costs of using the tax system to reduce inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality reflects an amalgam of factors. The optimal policy response reflects that complexity.

Posted to Web: March 20, 2014Publication Date: March 20, 2014

State Policy and EITC Expansion for Childless Workers (Article/Tax Facts)
Elaine Maag, Brian David Moore

President Obama and others have proposed increasing the federal earned income tax credit for workers without qualifying children. That would automatically raise state EITCs in the 23 states that calculate a state-level credit for this group as a percentage of the federal credit.

Posted to Web: March 20, 2014Publication Date: March 17, 2014

Housing Finance At A Glance: A Monthly Chartbook: March 2014 (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
Laurie Goodman, Ellen Seidman, Jim Parrott, Jun Zhu, Wei Li, Bing Bai, Pamela Lee, Taz George, Maia Woluchem, Alison Rincon

At A Glance, the Housing Finance Policy Center's monthly chartbook, provides timely metrics on the state of the housing market and examines public policy's role in housing finance. March's issue includes a new analysis of mortgage insurance activity comparing FHA and private mortgage insurance fees.

Posted to Web: March 18, 2014Publication Date: March 18, 2014

Policies to Support the Middle Class: Testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance (Testimony)
Leonard E. Burman

In this testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Len Burman outlines some of the challenges facing the middle class in 2014 and explores policy options that might help better equip them to meet those challenges, including improving access to higher education and job training and consolidating and targeting education tax subsidies; slowing the growth of spending on health care; eliminating the carried interest loophole; encouraging saving by offering automatic contributions to 401(k)-like accounts for low- and moderate-income households; and replacing automatic price indexing with annual indexation adjustments designed to partially counterbalance changes in the distribution of income on a revenue-neutral basis.

Posted to Web: March 13, 2014Publication Date: March 13, 2014

Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities (Research Report)
Meredith Dank, Bilal Khan, P. Mitchell Downey, Cybele Kotonias, Debbie Mayer, Colleen Owens, Laura Pacifici, Lilly Yu

The underground commercial sex economy (UCSE) generates millions of dollars annually, yet investigation and data collection remain under resourced. Our study aimed to unveil the scale of the UCSE in eight major US cities-Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. Across cities, the UCSE's worth was estimated between $39.9 and $290 million in 2007, but decreased since 2003 in all but two cities. Interviews with pimps, traffickers, sex workers, child pornographers, and law enforcement revealed the dynamics central to the underground commercial sex trade-and shaped the policy suggestions to combat it.

Posted to Web: March 12, 2014Publication Date: March 12, 2014

Offenders, Former Sex Workers, Law Enforcement Detail Inner Workings of US Underground Commercial Sex Trade in New Urban Institute Study (Press Release)
Urban Institute

The underground commercial sex economy (UCSE) generates millions of dollars annually, yet investigation and data collection remain under resourced. Our study aimed to unveil the scale of the UCSE in eight major US cities-Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and Washington, DC. Across cities, the UCSE's worth was estimated between $39.9 and $290 million in 2007, but decreased since 2003 in all but two cities. Interviews with pimps, traffickers, sex workers, child pornographers, and law enforcement revealed the dynamics central to the underground commercial sex trade-and shaped the policy suggestions to combat it.

Posted to Web: March 12, 2014Publication Date: March 12, 2014

Tax Subsidies for Asset Development: An Overview and Distributional Analysis (Research Report)
Benjamin H. Harris, C. Eugene Steuerle, Signe-Mary McKernan, Caleb Quakenbush, Caroline Ratcliffe

The federal government channels much of its support for asset building through the tax code. Asset-building tax subsidies, primarily for homeownership and retirement saving, totaled $384 billion in 2013. This report reviews federal tax expenditures for housing, retirement, savings, business development, and higher education. We highlight research on the effectiveness of and justifications for these expenditures, find limited efficacy in their current form, and note possible adjustments. We estimate the distributional effect of major tax expenditures and find that the vast majority of subsidies benefit the top two income quintiles. Last, we review prospective policies such as matched saving accounts and automatic enrollment.

Posted to Web: March 07, 2014Publication Date: February 20, 2014

The Launch of Health Reform in Eight States: State Flexibility Is Leading to Very Different Outcomes (Research Report)
John Holahan, Linda J. Blumberg, Teresa A. Coughlin, Brigette Courtot, Ian Hill, Rebecca Peters, Shanna Rifkin, Margaret Wilkinson, Sabrina Corlette, Kevin Lucia

This paper provides a review of a series of papers that examine early implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 8 states. These states – Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Virginia – have made very different design choices in implementing the law. We examine coverage expansion; financial impacts; the development of information technology systems; outreach, education and enrollment assistance; insurer participation, competition and premiums in marketplaces; insurance market reforms; development of SHOP marketplaces; and issues of provider capacity. We conclude that different design choices made by states will lead to different results. The law will work very differently for residents in different states around the country and there will be different outcomes both in terms of coverage and economic impacts.

Posted to Web: March 05, 2014Publication Date: March 05, 2014

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