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An experimental study of the effects of marital status and family size on tax fairness judgments

Advances in Taxation

ISBN: 978-0-76230-670-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-057-9

ISSN: 1058-7497

Publication date: 31 July 2000


This study investigates taxpayers' assessments of what they believe to be fair amounts of federal income taxes for families that differ with regard to the number of dependent children, the number of spouses employed, and marital status. Three-hundred-and-sixty-six prospective jurors from Alabama and Colorado participated in the experiment. In a between-subjects design, tax liabilities were: (1) lower when households included dependent children, (2) the same regardless of whether one or both spouses generated the income, and (3) the same for married couples and singles with the same total incomes. Participants did not assess taxes so as to avoid a marriage penalty; instead, they assessed taxes in a manner that avoided a single's penalty, even though approximately three-fourths of the participants were married. Further, contrary to current tax policy, within-subject results suggest that participants consider it fair for a single parent to pay significantly less tax than a married couple with a child.


Christensen, A.L., Hite, P.A. and Roberts, M.L. (2000), "An experimental study of the effects of marital status and family size on tax fairness judgments", Advances in Taxation (Advances in Taxation, Vol. 12), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 51-76.



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