Sunday, April 4, 2021

Do EITC expansions pay for themselves? Effects on tax revenue and government transfers

Do EITC expansions pay for themselves? Effects on tax revenue and government transfers. Jacob E. Bastian, Maggie R. Jones. Journal of Public Economics, Volume 196, April 2021, 104355. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104355

Highlights

• The EITC increases the labor supply of mothers, which leads to increases in payroll and sales taxes paid.

• The EITC decreases dependence on government transfer spending.

• Evaluated over a one-year period, the net EITC cost is only 17 percent of the $70 billion annual budgetary cost.

• Evaluated over a longer-time horizon, the net EITC cost is lower and perhaps zero.

• The 2009 EITC expansion continued to increase maternal labor supply and earnings.

Abstract: This paper calculates the EITC’s net cost by estimating effects, both direct and through recipients’ behavioral changes, on tax revenue and government transfer spending. We show that the EITC increases labor supply and income, thereby increasing the taxes households pay and reducing the government transfer payments they receive. Using linked IRS–CPS data and several EITC policy changes, and focusing on married and unmarried women, we find that the EITC’s net cost is only 17 percent of the ($70 billion) budgetary cost over a one-year period. Although the EITC is one of the U.S.’s largest and most important public assistance programs, the EITC is actually one of the U.S.’s least expensive anti-poverty programs.

Keywords: Earned income tax creditTaxesPublic assistanceGovernment transfersWomen’s labor supplyFiscal policy


The ‘Big Gods Hypothesis’ offered a solution to the origins of religion & of complex societies by proposing that beliefs in moralizing supernatural punishment culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers

Whitehouse, Harvey, Pieter Fran├žois, Daniel Hoyer, Kevin C. Feeney, Enrico Cioni, Rosalind Purcell, Robert M. Ross, et al. 2021. “Big Gods Did Not Drive the Rise of Big Societies Throughout World History.” OSF Preprints. April 3. doi:10.31219/osf.io/mbnvg

Abstract: The origins of religion and of complex societies represent evolutionary puzzles. The ‘Big Gods Hypothesis’ offers a solution to both puzzles by proposing that beliefs in moralizing supernatural punishment culturally evolved to facilitate cooperation among strangers in large-scale societies. Although previous research has suggested an association between the presence of Big Gods and big societies, the relationship between the two is disputed, and attempts to establish causality have been hampered by limitations in the availability of detailed global longitudinal data. To address these issues, we analyze data in the Seshat Global History Databank that coded 309 past societies for variables capturing beliefs in moralizing supernatural punishment and social complexity. The longitudinal (time-resolved) nature of Seshat data enables us to test evolutionary hypotheses about processes generating social change and distinguish between competing causal scenarios. We find that beliefs in moralizing supernatural punishment only appear after the largest increases in social complexity and that a formal analysis designed to test for causal relationships failed to detect a statistically significant effect of moralizing supernatural punishment on social complexity.



Anxiety sensitivity, female sex, and smoking are risk factors for physical inactivity; high levels of anxiety sensitivity were related to more time spent walking for females but not males

Understanding sex differences in physical activity behavior: The role of anxiety sensitivity. Gloria J. Gomez et al. Mental Health and Physical Activity, March 29 2021, 100392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhpa.2021.100392

Highlights

• Anxiety sensitivity, female sex, and smoking are risk factors for physical inactivity.

• Higher anxiety sensitivity levels were related to lower total physical activity levels in males.

• Females' total physical activity levels were not dependent on anxiety sensitivity levels.

•High levels of anxiety sensitivity were related to more time spent walking for females but not males.

Abstract

Problem: There is a well-evidenced sex-disparity in physical activity (PA), such that females are significantly less active than males. Anxiety sensitivity, the fear of anxiety-related bodily sensations, is a cognitive-affective vulnerability associated with increased negative affect during PA and lower levels of PA. The current study examined anxiety sensitivity as a potential sex-specific, psychological factor related to sex differences in past-week PA behavior in daily cigarette smokers.

Method: Participants (n=527; 53.3% female) completed an anonymous online survey on emotion and health. Anxiety sensitivity was assessed with the Anxiety Sensitivity Index-3. Past-week, self-reported PA minutes were measured across four intensities (e.g. walking, moderate, vigorous, and total PA) using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire-Short. Four zero-inflated negative binomial regression models were constructed to test the main and interactive effects of sex and anxiety sensitivity on PA outcomes.

Results: Females reported significantly fewer past-week PA minutes relative to males across all domains. At higher levels of anxiety sensitivity, males reported significantly fewer total PA minutes; whereas, total PA levels in females were not dependent on anxiety sensitivity level. Additionally, females with elevated anxiety sensitivity reported significantly more past-week walking minutes relative to females with low anxiety sensitivity, whereas the opposite pattern was observed in males.

Conclusion: This is the first study to our knowledge to examine sex-differences in anxiety sensitivity and PA, at varying PA intensities, among smokers. These data have the potential to inform sex-specific models of anxiety, PA, and smoking.

Keywords: ExercisePhysical activityAnxiety sensitivitysex differencesSmokers


Sociosexuality significantly predicted self-reported wellbeing during social lockdown for women, but not for men; those with high levels of desire for casual sex reported a greater negative impact on their self-reported levels of wellbeing

Changes in Sexual Desire and Behaviors among UK Young Adults During Social Lockdown Due to COVID-19. Liam Wignall et al. The Journal of Sex Research, Mar 29 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2021.1897067

Abtract: This study examined self-reported changes in young adults’ sexual desire and behaviors during the most significant social restrictions imposed to deal with COVID-19. Drawing on a survey of 565 British adults aged 18–32 collected at the peak of social lockdown restrictions, we document an overall decrease in sexual behaviors consistent with abiding by social restrictions. We found that the levels of sexual desire reported by women (but not men) decreased compared with reports of pre-lockdown levels. Participants in serious relationships reported more increases in sexual activity than people who were single or dating casually, and there were significant differences according to gender and sexual orientation. The perceived impact of subjective wellbeing of people with high sociosexuality scores was disproportionately associated with social lockdown but there was no effect for general health. Thus, the impact on sexuality and general wellbeing should be considered by policymakers when considering future social restrictions related to COVID-19 or other public health emergencies.

Discussion

Social policy measures put in place to deal with COVID-19 have had profound social and economic consequences (e.g., Ali & Alharbi, 2020). The impact such measures have had on sexuality has received little attention, although initial exploratory studies document changes in desires and sexual behaviors (Lehmiller et al., 2020; Li et al., 2020; Stephenson et al., 2020). The current study drew on a survey of 565 young adults living in the UK (Mage = 25.35, SDage = 4.13) to examine changes in sexual desire and behaviors during social lockdown, with data collection occurring at the end of the period of the strictest social lockdown restrictions. Men reported higher sexual desire levels compared to women both before and during lockdown. Women showed a significant reduction in levels of sexual desire overall during lockdown; men showed a similar trend, but this did not reach statistical significance. Living arrangement (i.e., friends or others, partner, family or children, alone, other) had no detectable association with sexual desire levels either pre-lockdown or during lockdown and did not interact with gender.

Regarding sexual behaviors, men and LGB people reported significantly more increases in various sexual behaviors than women and heterosexual people, respectively, during social lockdown, in the context of a general decrease in reported sexual behaviors during the lockdown. Participants in relationships reported more increases in various sexual behaviors during social lockdown than those who were single or dating casually.

Lastly, general health and changes in subjective wellbeing were not predicted by sexual desire and sociosexuality scores for men or women, overall. However, sociosexuality significantly predicted self-reported wellbeing during social lockdown for women, but not for men. Further analysis showed that it was the desire aspect of sociosexuality which was associated with perceived impact on subjective wellbeing – those with high levels of desire for casual sex reported a greater negative impact on their self-reported levels of wellbeing than those with less desire for casual sex.

The gender differences found in some analyses (women reporting lower sexual desire levels than men both during and prior to lockdown and reporting a greater reduction in levels of sexual desire) are consistent with other COVID-19 research (Li et al., 2020). This could be due to increased levels of stress for women as a result of additional domestic labor (e.g., Collins et al., 2021) and may be associated with other symptoms emerging as a result of the pandemic and social restrictions. For example, increases in anxiety and depression have been recorded during the pandemic among both men and women and are associated with multiple factors, including the presence of children in the household due to school closings (Shevlin et al., 2020). Furthermore, depressive symptoms have been found to disproportionately affect young women (Vizard et al., 2020). Previous literature suggests that anxiety and depression can have an adverse effect on sexual desire (Beaber & Werner, 2009), although they can also increase sexual desire in some individuals (Bancroft et al., 2003; Lykins et al., 2006).

The changes in reported sexual behaviors during social lockdown are similar to the findings of other studies (e.g., Jacob et al., 2020; Stephenson et al., 2020), and have significant implications. There was a decreased occurrence of all sexual behaviors, although mixed results about change in frequencies of these sexual behaviors. This could be indicative of people following lockdown rules, particularly given that increases in masturbation were not associated with increases in sexual intercourse, potentially because some people who could not have sex turned to masturbation instead. Participants with unrestricted sociosexuality were more likely to report lower levels of general health and perceived impact on subjective wellbeing. This may come from the restrictions placed on casual sex to reduce transmission rates of COVID-19. Given people with higher levels of sociosexuality can also face prejudice from broader society (Vrangalova & Bukberg, 2015), it is important to consider interventions that target such people, perhaps through sexual health services. Similarly, LGB people with high levels of sexual desire during lockdown reported greater perceived impact on their wellbeing – replicating findings in the US (Sanchez et al., 2020), where one-third of gay and bisexual men reported negative coping behaviors such as binge drinking during lockdown (Stephenson et al., 2020).

Since the initial social lockdown on March 16th, 2020, across the UK, there have been several more variations of social lockdowns, with tier systems introduced throughout the UK. Further social lockdowns have occurred at different times in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, and internationally. All these social restrictions lack advice on how to navigate sex, particularly for single people or couples LAT, thus privileging monogamous relationships. There was a de facto criminalization of sexual activity between consenting adults who did not live in the same household in the UK during lockdown, and legal restrictions on casual sex were effectively in place for much of 2020 in at least some parts of the UK because of the regional “tier” system introduced after the end of the first formal lockdown. Much greater recognition of the impact of lockdown restrictions on sexuality is needed, with consideration given to how social policy can minimize risk in sexual encounters without effectively banning them for extended periods of time: governments need to recognize the importance sex holds in the lives of individuals and society (Rubin, 2011).

In addition to the restrictions on sexual practice, there are other policy implications as they pertain to sexuality. Sexual and reproductive health services have been severely limited during social lockdown, with some closed altogether (Church et al., 2020; Nagendra et al., 2020), making access to treatment for STIs or fertility treatments more difficult. This may be particularly significant for people who continue to have sexual intercourse with others in contravention of social restrictions, including people who use sex as a coping mechanism against stress (Jaspal et al., 2021; Stephenson et al., 2020). This means that STIs may be currently under-reported and there will be significant public health implications as restrictions are eased. Likewise, public health bodies should plan for a potential significant increase in casual sex as restrictions ease and such behaviors no longer contravene lockdown guidance, given the drop in sexual behaviors found in this and other studies.

Limitations and Conclusion

While the findings provide important insights into sexual practices and behaviors of young adults in the UK during social lockdown due to COVID-19, this study was not without limitations. First, we employed a cross-sectional analysis, recruiting participants during the peak social lockdown restrictions. Second, we relied on retrospective self-report data for levels of sexual desire, which may provide inaccurate or biased results (Schmitt & Di Fabio, 2005). Longitudinal research is needed to explore what happens as social lockdown restrictions ease and whether reported changes persist, how quickly they fade and whether social or health interventions are needed in this endeavor. Relatedly, participants’ interpretations of questions may have been different (e.g., “before lockdown” could mean in the last month or year preceding lockdown). Future research should be more specific in questions. Third, the perceived impact on subjective wellbeing measure was developed for this study and not validated prior to the study, due to exceptional time restraints posed by the lifting of lockdown measures. As such, further research with established measures of wellbeing is needed. Relatedly, our measure for general health consisted of a single-item question; a more substantial measure of general health would strengthen reliability. Fourth, the sample was limited to predominantly White, heterosexual young adults. Further research needs to explore the experiences of sexual and ethnic minorities, as well as other age groups. Fifth, there may have been some selection bias: participants were recruited through an online participant recruitment pool, resulting in a convenience sample of people already willing to participate in research. These individuals may perceive more negative impacts of the pandemic, potentially having more free time due to furlough or needing extra income through survey participation. Finally, most of the significant effect sizes were quite small. To address these final limitations, future research should draw on nationally representative samples with larger sample sizes.

In conclusion, this study of UK young adults aged 18–32 found a general decrease in reported rates of sexual behaviors during social lockdown. For those who continued to engage in sexual activity, increases were predicted by gender and sexual orientation. Women reported lower levels of sexual desire compared to men, and also reported a significant decrease in sexual desire during lockdown. Women’s perceptions of the impact of lockdown on wellbeing were associated with attitudes to casual sex. Given these findings and the likelihood of future lockdown measures, in the UK and internationally, it is important to consider the impact of such measures on sexual desires and behaviors and how negative effects from them can be mitigated.