Friday Facts and Figures

Friday Facts and Figures: January 10, 2020

New study finds that corporate tax breaks are not worth the investment.

Published on Jan 10, 2020

Friday Facts and Figures is a brief digital newsletter focusing on data points from NJPP reports, research, and policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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$30 Billion

A new study co-authored by Princeton University economist Owen Zidar finds no strong evidence that corporate tax subsidies actually work. According to the paper, state and local governments across the country award $30 billion in corporate tax breaks every year — and the benefits are hard to find. Corporations receiving subsidies create a very small number of jobs relative to the tax breaks they receive, and even when jobs are created there is no evidence they go to local residents who need them. Further, Zidar concludes that corporate tax incentives do not increase broader economic growth for the region. [The Outline / Noah Kulwin]

$85 Million

In 2018, New Jersey lawmakers revived the state’s film production tax credit program with an $85 million annual cap. Now, some lawmakers and the governor want to expand the program and its budget. The problem? Like corporate tax subsidies, there is little evidence that tax breaks for film production are worth the investment. A 2019 study of 30 states’ use of film tax breaks show “no statistically significant effects” on the broader economy due to their high price tag and the short-term nature of film production jobs. According to TalkPoverty’s Pat Garofalo, “You could just set the money on fire and have the same outcome.” [ / Dustin Racioppi and Ashley Balcerzak]


On Thursday, the New Jersey Senate passed a package of bills to codify core provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in state law. These bills will ensure key protections of the ACA — such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage for preexisting conditions, requiring essential benefits, providing free preventive services, and allowing parents to keep their dependents on their plan until age 26 — will remain in place should a federal court strike down the landmark law. The threat of an ACA repeal still looms large, however, as the state could lose billions in federal funding for Medicaid expansion and keeping insurance premiums affordable in the individual market. [NJPP / Raymond Castro]


Raising the minimum wage not only benefits the wages of low-paid workers, but also their mental health. According to a new study, raising the minimum wage by $1 or more appears to reduce the suicide rate, especially when the unemployment rate is high and it’s difficult to find a job. From the article: “Between 1990 and 2015, raising the minimum wage by $1 in each sate might have saved more than 27,000 lives. An increase of $2 in each state’s minimum wage could have prevented more than 57,000 suicides.” [NPR / Graison Dangor]

69 Percent

A majority of asylum claims — 69 percent — were denied in 2019, a drastic increase from 45 percent in the early 2010s. This is a direct result of the Trump administration strictly limiting the grounds on which immigration judges can grant asylum. In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions restricted the legal basis for asylum for Central American women and children fleeing from violence. [Syracuse University / Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse]


In a new editorial, the Philadelphia Inquirer has called on state lawmakers to rein in New Jersey’s costly and ineffective corporate tax subsidies. The piece links to NJPP’s latest report on corporate tax incentives and calls hard caps a sensible step, though well short of a solution. From the editorial: “It’s especially galling that the insatiable appetite to offer incentives persists despite abundant evidence the enticements don’t work well, or are unnecessary.” We couldn’t agree more. [The Philadelphia Inquirer / Editorial Board]

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