Refundable earned income tax credit at the state level could reduce high-risk HIV behaviors

A state-level refundable earned income tax credit was associated with a 21% reduction in high-risk HIV behaviors among low-income women last year, suggesting that the policy can reduce this burden.

According to a recent study, the State Earned Income Tax Credit (SEITC) may reduce HIV risk behaviors among low-income single mothers. The primary outcome was a composite measure of HIV risk, including factors such as drug use, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and trading money or drugs for risky sex and sexual behavior.

“This is the first study to examine the relationship between state earned income tax credit laws and HIV risk behaviors,” said the authors of the study, published in AIDS and behavior.

The highest HIV diagnoses occur among women whose median household income is less than $36,000 a year, according to the CDC. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are directly linked to poverty.

The precursor to the SEITC was the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (FEITC) of 1975, a refundable tax for low-income workers. In 2020, it actually increased the income of poor people by $2,411, according to the researchers. The state income tax program is adopted by 28 states and the District of Columbia, and its benefits are in addition to those provided by the FEITC.

After noticing a few studies on the extent to which income support could reduce high-risk sexual behaviors among women in the United States, the researchers implemented data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and a plan quasi-experimental study to study the impact of the SEITC law on HIV. risk behaviors among single mothers with little education.

The team obtained data from BRFSS and other state documents from 2002 to 2018 on single mothers aged 18 to 55 with young children, performing a multi-state, multi-year differences-in-differences analysis. . The low education measure was restricted to women with a high school diploma or less.

The results suggest a link between a reimbursable SEITC – equal to or greater than 10% of what the FEITC offered – and a decrease in HIV risk behaviors among low-educated single mothers.

Investigators found that HIV risk behaviors were relatively reduced by more than 30% with a 10% increase in the generous refundable credit. However, a refundable credit of less than 10% of the EIFTC amounts might not have an impact on risky behavior, according to the study.

The researchers further suggested that non-reimbursable SEITC laws had no association with HIV risk behaviors.

“Non-refundable credits and less generous credits did not show statistically significant associations with HIV risk behaviors,” the study authors reported. “We find that a 10% increase in the generosity of state earned income tax credits is associated with a 2.3% reduction in HIV risk behaviors.”

The study was limited because it was observational and the BRFSS could form selective biases. Additionally, the researchers admit to potentially underestimating the effect of SEITC laws on certain populations and the sensitivity of the issues.

“There may be a significant opportunity to influence the trajectory of HIV in this population through increased adoption of state earned income tax credit laws, changes in the way laws are implemented implementation and an increase in benefit generosity,” the researchers concluded.

Reference

Narain K. and Harawa N. Evidence for the role of state-level economic policy in reducing HIV risk: Generosity of state-earned income tax credit and HIV risk behavior among single mothers. AIDS-related behavior (2022). Accessed September 9, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-022-03754-x

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