The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) serves more than 26 million U.S. tax filers every year. The EITC is distributed annually at tax time; however, past research suggests that lump-sum disbursements leave households with a lack of funds to deal with financial emergencies throughout the year. Drawing upon the data from a pilot program conducted in 2014–2015 in Chicago, this study analyzes how advanced periodic payments help mitigate financial instability for EITC recipients. Interview participants relate that advanced periodic payments result in a reduction in perceived stress, lower levels of debt, fewer unpaid bills, and the ability to engage youth in extracurricular activities. The findings provide a unique perspective on the ways in which low-income households cope with financial instability and stress and suggest that payment frequency options can play a small but important role in the way in which the EITC operates as a support mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1626-1655
Number of pages30
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • financial instability
  • poverty
  • stress
  • working poor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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