It’s Long Overdue for Public Finance Scholars to Study Racism in the Tax Code.

In reckoning and renewed attention to issues of racial equity and justice. This long-overdue awakening led me to read extensively about racism and to think about interactions between race and tax policy. In a new paper, “Public finance and racism,” I explore some of these links.

While I’ve studied tax policy for over 30 years, I’d not yet spent much time focusing on connections between race and tax issues that clearly exist.

Three observations, however, are abundantly clear. First, widespread and long-standing racial discrimination in the United States has had enormous, lasting, and deleterious economic effects on Black households. Second, tax policies and other government policies have contributed materially to this problem. Third, changes to the tax code, spending programs, or regulations can help ameliorate the effects of racism, but it is crucial to take into account the persistent effects of racism and the impact of past policies on Black households. Policies that some may view as race-blind may still cement the status quo and reinforce the ills of past and continuing racism.

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The Brookings Institution

by William G. Gale

November 4, 2021



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