Washington, D.C. — According to a new issue brief published today by the Center for American Progress, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, for workers without dependent children would not only boost economic security for struggling workers, but would also reduce crime and enhance public safety, saving American communities billions of dollars each year. CAP’s new original analysis calculates that boosting the EITC for childless workers would save up to $3.3 billion each year, including through less property damage, fewer lives lost, lower medical costs, and so on. This means that societal benefits from reduced crime and enhanced public safety alone would add up to as much as half the cost of expanding the EITC itself.
“A comprehensive agenda to address the nation’s legacy of over-criminalization and mass incarceration requires boosting wages for America’s lowest-paid workers, including raising the minimum wage and expanding the EITC, policies supported by conservative and progressive voters alike,” said Rachel West, Associate Director, Poverty to Prosperity Program and author of the issue brief. “Pairing a minimum wage increase with an EITC expansion would bring annual public safety benefits of up to $20 billion to American communities, while also giving a tremendous boost to struggling workers and their families.”
As many as 100 million Americans—about one in three adults—have a criminal record of some kind. Having a criminal record can make securing employment nearly impossible, unnecessarily barring workers from a host of trades and professions and preventing them from obtaining needed training, education, and support. And even when individuals are able to overcome these obstacles and find employment, they are disproportionately likely to work in low-paying jobs. Research shows that livable wages in low-paying jobs are key to increasing opportunity, reducing crime, and enhancing public safety—which is how policies that raise wages have the added effect of lowering crime. A recent analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisors finds that raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020—which would boost wages for 35 million low-paid American workers—would yield annual benefits of up to $17 billion to American communities by reducing crime. The CAP report released today provides additional evidence that good job opportunities and fair wages are associated with lower crime, finding that that in 2013, every 10 percent increase in a state’s minimum wage was associated with a more than 15 percent decrease in that state’s adult incarceration rate.
Click here to read the issue brief, “EITC Expansion for Childless Workers Would Save Billions — and Take a Bite Out of Crime”
Click here for the accompanying infographic, “How Could Boosting Wages Reduce Crime?”
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