October 5, 2012
Alstott Presents Marriage, the Income Tax, and Social Security in the Age of the New Individualism at Columbia
Anne Alstott (Yale) presented Updating the Welfare State: Marriage, the Income Tax, and Social Security in the Age of the New Individualism at Columbia yesterday as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex Raskolnikov, David Schizer and Wojciech Kopczuk:
Since the 1970s, and accelerating since 1990, the ties between formal marriage and family life have attenuated. Nearly half of American adults are now unmarried at any given time, and two of five children are born to unmarried parents. At the same time, delayed marriage, divorce, remarriage, and changing gender roles have transformed marriage itself.
Despite these changes, the federal income tax and the Social Security system continue to define family based on formal marriage, and our casebooks teach students that the economic vulnerability of the married woman is the central problem of gender in welfare-state design. In this article, I argue that both joint filing in the income tax and the spousal benefit in Social Security stand in need of major reform, because they no longer plausibly foster individual freedom or tailor taxation and benefits to welfare. Even those who see value in traditional marriage, I argue, should prefer explicit marriage subsidies to the arbitrary penalties and bonuses embedded in present law.
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