Americans Understand That Families Need The Earned Income Tax Credit To Make Ends Meet

What does it really take for a family to “get by”? Gallup has been asking Americans that question for nearly 80 years. Their most recent survey shows that Americans believe that a family of four needs nearly $60,000 a year to make ends meet in their community. Almost forty percent of respondents picked an income between $50,000 and $75,000; another 22 percent picked between $30,000 and $50,000 while 18 percent picked over $75,000 and 13 percent had no idea. Only 7 percent thought a family could get by with less than $30,000 in income. (By comparison, the official federal poverty level for a family of four is considerably lower—under $24,000.)

So it’s not surprising that one of the most persuasive arguments for the EITC is that it helps working families meet basic needs. For tax year 2012, a family of four, headed by a married couple, can only claim the maximum EITC if their income is under $22,300 and by the time their income reaches $47,162 they can’t claim the credit at all.

If you explain that to claim the full credit a family of four must make less than $22,300 a year, most Americans will understand that simply isn’t enough income to make ends meet.

What does that tell us as advocates? Two things. First, it’s important to explain in dollars what a family must earn to claim the full credit. Second, it confirms what other survey research has shown—that people understand that an EITC helps a working family with this level of income meet basic needs.