When the Biden administration expanded the Child Tax Credit in 2021 with direct cash payments of up to $3,600 to alleviate child poverty, millions of the most vulnerable families never received the automatic payments because they didn’t have a digital connection with the Internal Revenue Service through a previous income tax filing online. The burden was on those families to seek out the public benefit.
To boost awareness, the government launched a messaging campaign to let families know that up to $3,600 a year was waiting for them. But months later, millions of dollars were still unclaimed.
A new study led by Wharton marketing professor Wendy De La Rosa pinpoints the reason why so many Americans left money on the table: The large amount seemed like an abstraction because people don’t think about money on a yearly basis. Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that people were more likely to collect the money if it was conveyed as a monthly or weekly amount — $300 or $69 — similar to how they budget.
Anew research model from the Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) has brought clarity to the immigration debate in the U.S. by analyzing the macroeconomic implications of different policy scenarios. The model is at the core of a paper titled “Immigration and the Macroeconomy” authored by PWBM experts – Efraim Berkovich, director of computational dynamics; Daniela Costa, economist; and Austin Herrick, senior analyst.
“We find that, after an initial period, increasing legal immigration improves both the government’s fiscal balance and the economy on a per-capita basis,” the paper stated. “Legalization policies [or regularizing undocumented immigrants], on the other hand, worsen the government’s fiscal balance due to increased spending, while having modest effects on the economy broadly.” Lawful immigrants receive government transfers over their lifetime such as Social Security benefits, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); if they are not sufficiently productive, they create a “retirement benefits imbalance,” the paper pointed out.
The legalization plan the paper modeled is similar to the legalization provisions in the Biden immigration plan. That plan was akin to “a one-shot legalization for people who are already in the U.S.,” said Herrick.
The reasons behind the racial disparity in refinancing align with documented evidence about other inequities in housing, Keys said during an interview with Wharton Business Daily on SiriusXM. (Listen to the podcast above.) Structural racism built into both public policy and the private sector has led to longstanding asymmetry in income, credit scores, loan-to-value ratios and other risk factors that inhibit refinancing for minorities.
The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the problem, Keys said, because Black and Hispanic households are more likely to experience job loss than white households. The U.S. unemployment rate in May dropped to 5.8%, yet it was 7.3% for Hispanics and 9.1% for Blacks.
“Some of this may be a function of just measuring incomes and employment disruptions, but I think there is another factor, which is related to just how tight mortgage credit is right now,” Keys added. “Mortgage credit is perceived as being very tight. It can be a hard time to get a loan, and there are a lot of hoops to jump through when you’re refinancing.”
Author(s): Benjamin Keys interviewed on Wharton Business Daily
Wharton Business Daily: What are your thoughts on the move by Congress to allow people to be able to dip into their 401(k) accounts? You are not a fan of that idea in general.
OliviaMitchell: That’s true. This got started in March 2020, when the CARES Act was passed by Congress, allowing people who had 401(k) accounts and who were younger than age 59.5 to access up to $100,000 from their retirement accounts without paying the 10% penalty. Congress permitted this in the throes of COVID and then they allowed the income taxes on those withdrawals to be spread over three years unless the money was repaid to the account. That option ended in December 2020.
Congress passed a new bill in December that did not extend penalty-free access to everyone, but it did permit people who experienced federally declared disasters, aside from COVID, to withdraw some of their 401(k) money. So, there are still eligible people who, in 2021, can withdraw up to $100,000 from their retirement accounts without penalties. Again, they can spread it over three years for tax purposes. In general, this is not a good idea.