Guaranteed Income: The Evidence

Guaranteed income is the most researched intervention in the world and hundreds of studies have proven its effects overwhelmingly positive and consistent. Don’t take our word for it; we’ve put together 50 years of research and findings into this page.

“In most situations, there is strong evidence that money, not food, is the most efficient and effective way to distribute emergency aid and social programmes.”
- Dr Orkin, University of Oxford

“Cash transfers have the strongest track record we've seen for a non-health intervention.”
- GiveWell

Research on Guaranteed Income
is Positive and Consistent

The chart below shows consistent positive results from 165 cash assistance experiments on wide-ranging metrics of wellbeing. Unlike legacy interventions that specifically provide healthcare, education, job training, or any other good or service, cash doesn't only impact one area. Instead, it generates clear positive results across the board.

Cash Transfer Effects
Graph adapted from Bastagli, Zanker, et al (2016)

Guaranteed Income is Rarely Spent Wastefully

Contrary to popular misconceptions, studies have overwhelmingly established the fact that individuals do not statistically waste or misuse guaranteed income on drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, there is no evidence supporting any claims that recipients of guaranteed income become lazy or work less. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite: recipients frequently buy fewer ‘temptation goods’ and leverage assistance money to do more productive work.

The World Bank: “This article reviews 19 studies … on average cash transfers have a significant negative effect on total expenditures on temptation goods [alcohol, tobacco, etc.], … This negative result is supported by data from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, for both conditional and unconditional cash transfer programs.”

World Bank

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association: “This article brings together evidence from seven experimental and non-experimental impact evaluations of government-run unconditional cash transfer programs … There is no evidence that cash transfers translated into an overall reduction of labor supply or work effort — in fact, quite the opposite: the transfers were used to improve household income-generating activities.”

Agricultural & Applied Economics Association

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “We re-analyze the data from seven randomized controlled trials of government-run cash transfer programs in six developing countries throughout the world and find no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Independent Experts are Coming Around

Governments and major non-profits are beginning to recognize the supremacy of cash among anti-poverty programs. We believe that they should immediately consider replacing each of their current anti-poverty programs with guaranteed income. Some non-cash programs may be more effective than cash in extremely limited cases, but nothing comes close to cash in general effectiveness and scalability. In first-world countries, they should partner with us to build out the Basic Income Network.

Overseas Development Institute: “There is strong evidence that cash transfers are associated with reductions in monetary poverty.”

Overseas Development Institute

Cochrane Systematic Review: “The existing body of evidence, which is based on several cluster‐RCTs, suggests that UCTs have probably had a large, clinically meaningful, beneficial effect on the likelihood of having had any illness...”

Cochrane Systematic Review

The World Bank: "Using data from 75 reports that cover 35 different studies, the authors find that both conditional cash transfers and unconditional cash transfers improve the odds of being enrolled in and attending school compared to no cash transfer program."

World Bank

Campbell Collaboration: “Cash transfers are more cost-effective than vouchers which are more cost-effective than in‐kind food assistance.”

Campbell Collaboration

Cash Can be Effective
for Helping the Homeless

Recent projects and studies have demonstrated that well-administered guaranteed income programs can be incredibly effective at helping to permanently stabilize homeless individuals. Keeping people on the streets costs between 45-180K (accounting for inflation) because they, “randomly ricochet through very expensive services” such as hospitals, addiction treatment services, police arrests, jail time, and court time.

Miracle Money: Run by Miracle Messages in California, Miracle Money provided $500 per month for 6 months to 12 individuals suffering from homelessness.

  • 66% of the recipients attained stable housing, making it the single most effective anti-homelessness program on a dollar to impact basis that we've found.

New Leaf Project: A guaranteed income experiment run by Foundations for Social Change helping homeless individuals in Canada, the New Leaf Project gave over 100 recently homeless individuals $7,500 of unconditional cash.

  • The experiment resulted in a 39% reduction in spending on drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. Furthermore, the cost savings to the shelter system paid off the cost of the cash transfer after just 12 months. We should also note that corporal and medical costs are far higher in the US than in Canada, so transfers in the US would pay for themselves far faster.

Wrapping Up

We are confident in our view that intelligently operated guaranteed income is almost always the most effective way to help any individual in any situation. Our conviction is based on the evidence outlined above.

If you have any further questions or concerns please send us an email at

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