The Impact of the Affordable Care Act Young Adult Provision on Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from Tax Data
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We use a panel data set of U.S. tax records spanning 2008-2012 to study the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement to allow young adult dependents to be covered by their parents’ insurance policies on labor market-related outcomes. How health insurance expansions affect young adults through employment and education have important implications for public finance. Since tax data record access to employer provided fringe benefits on W-2 forms, we are able to examine the impact of this coverage expansion by comparing young adults whose parents have access to benefits to other similar aged young adults, before and after the law, and to young adults who are slightly older than the age threshold of the law. The use of tax data to identify families who have fringe benefits through their employer is an important advantage because the law was implemented during a labor market recovery in which outcomes could differ by age, even absent the law. Despite sizable increases documented elsewhere in insurance coverage resulting from this law, we find no meaningful changes in labor market related outcomes. We examine a comprehensive set of outcomes (including measures of employment status, job characteristics, and post-secondary education), and are the first to use a triple difference strategy to examine labor market effects of this law; we are also the first we know of to use tax data to examine the impact of the ACA on labor market outcomes. Although it is possible that labor market outcomes have changed in ways not captured by tax data (e.g. a change in hours of work while holding total wages constant, or a change in non-reported self-employment), our evidence suggests that the extension of health insurance to young adults did not substantially alter their labor market outcomes thus far.