Using Participants’ Ex Ante Identified Needs and Priorities to Assess the Impact of a Guaranteed Income Intervention

The main appeal of unconditional cash transfers as a poverty alleviation tool is that transfers give beneficiaries the freedom to invest in areas of their life where they expect the benefits to be greatest, which could include categories ranging from housing and children to unmet medical need. However, this large variety in possible choices poses a challenge to researchers wishing to evaluate such interventions, as different participants may prioritize these needs differently. As a result, there may be large effects on, for example, access to medical care, but only for a small and ex ante hard to identify subset of the study population. This project proposes a new method to analyze the impact of cash transfer interventions by eliciting ex ante needs and priorities of participants and using these to weight the large range of possible outcomes. We will analyze the largest publicly funded guaranteed income randomized trial in the U.S., the Cook County Promise Pilot, which randomly assigned 3,250 participants to receive a guaranteed income of $500 per month for two years. We will compare the impact of the payments on participant-identified needs and priorities to the underlying observed outcomes (unweighted by needs and priorities), an unweighted index of outcomes, and an index of outcomes weighted by experts’ assessment of the outcomes most likely to be affected. This work will provide new evidence on the value of cash transfers to beneficiaries and demonstrate the possible benefits of a new method to examine such impacts in future studies.

RFP Cycle:
SPRI RFP XX [June 2023]
United States of America
  • Full project