Tax policies to encourage women’s labor force participation

Editor's note:

This is a chapter from The 51%: Driving growth through women’s economic participation, edited by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and Ryan Nunn.


The current tax treatment of married couples reduces wives’ labor force participation and creates other inefficiencies. I propose a new second-earner deduction, equal to 15 percent of the earnings of a lower-earning spouse. The proposed deduction would raise the after-tax return to work for many wives, encouraging an increase in married women’s labor supply, and would reduce marriage penalties on average.


The author did not receive financial support from any firm or person for this paper or from any firm or person with a financial or political interest in this paper. She is currently not an officer, director, or board member of any organization with an interest in this paper.