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Evaluating Guaranteed Income Programs


  • Mayors for a Guaranteed Income hired Abt to evaluate guaranteed income pilots in seven cities.
  • Abt’s mixed methods approach will evaluate how guaranteed income influences participants’ well-being.
  • The evaluation will draw on survey and interview data with a report planned for 2023.
The Challenge

Guaranteed income (GI) refers to recurring cash payments made directly to individuals with no strings attached. The concept—along with universal basic income—has regained traction in recent years as a way to address systemic economic inequities. Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) provides funding, technical assistance, and resources to a network of over 60 mayors supporting GI pilots in their cities. MGI contracted Abt to evaluate GI programs in seven of those cities. 

The Approach

Each city’s GI pilot has a different focus based on needs and priorities in the city. GI amounts range from $375 to $680 per month and are offered to different target populations, including youth, single mothers, and others living in poverty. Abt will randomly assign applicants in each city either to receive the GI or be in the control group for the evaluation. Across the seven different sites, the primary research questions are:

  1. How does GI impact income volatility for participants?
  2. What is the relationship between income volatility and financial well-being, psychological distress, and physical functioning of participants?
  3. What is the relationship between GI and individual agency of participants?

Abt is using an integrated mixed methods design, combining qualitative data from interviews and quantitative data from a survey to enrich our understanding of the ways GI impacts recipients’ lives. Abt’s studies will contribute to the growing body of comparable evidence from GI pilots across the country.