The most comprehensive look into the impacts of unconditional cash to date

A randomized controlled trial, or an “RCT," is often regarded as the gold standard for effective and unbiased research. 

Our approach

By comparing a group of people who received a $1000 monthly cash transfer for three years to an otherwise identical group of people who did not, we can isolate and quantify its effects. 

RCTs split an otherwise identical group of people into two smaller groups at random. For our study, a high cash group received an unconditional cash transfer of $1000 per month, while a low cash group received $50 per month. 

Research design

At the heart of our research exists a comprehensive mixed-method research design. 

We employ a unique and symbiotic approach to understanding the effects of unconditional cash transfers by simultaneously collecting both quantitative data from surveys, administrative records, and bank transactions (among other sources), and qualitative data from semi-structured, open-ended interviews with a subset of participants. 

Key quantitative data collection phases were conducted at the beginning, middle and end of the program along with monthly surveys and rotating app activities. This allowed us to collected extensive data on the effects of unconditional cash on children, cognition, employment, financial health, physical and mental health, intrahousehold dynamics, material hardship, mobility, politics, social behaviors, and time use.

To date, we have qualitative data from five in-depth interview rounds on individual experiences, circumstances, and decision-making processes. 

By combining these methods, our study can establish statistically significant associations and correlations while also exploring the “how” and “why” behind observations. For instance, where quantitative survey data demonstrates whether unconditional cash transfers affect the number of hours someone works, qualitative interview data reveals nuanced personal situations driving employment decisions such as familial obligations, debilitating illnesses, or a systemic lack of transportation. 

At the time of enrollment: 

Participants' average household income was $28,000 a year.

Participants were selected from rural, suburban, and urban areas in two US states.

Participant characteristics reflect the broader population.

Our team and nonprofit partners ensured participants would not lose existing benefits, even passing a law in one state to do so.

Elizabeth Rhodes
Research Director

“Our research model blends quantitative and qualitative methods. The statistical power of a large-scale randomized control trial allows us to understand the what happens, while engaging with people’s experiences allows us to explore why and how it happened.”

Research design

Our research is designed to produce a multidimensional portrait of how unconditional cash impacts people’s lives.



Overall Response Rate at Endline


Qualitative Participants


We studied a cross-section of people within 300% of the federal poverty line in two US states. 

The sample included rural, suburban, and urban areas in U.S. states with different policy environments. 

We explored multiple outcomes. 

From healthcare utilization to childcare choices to financial resiliency, we specified pre-analysis plans for our investigation across 11 key topic areas.

Our project is multi-method
and interdisciplinary. 

Our work encompasses expertise in labor economics, health economics, public health, political science, social work, criminal justice, and sociology.

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Comprehensive data across topics 

External data sources

We utilize many secondary data sources including:
  • Bank account and credit card transaction data

  • Geospatial neighborhood quality data

  • Credit records from Experian

  • Postsecondary education records from National Student Clearinghouse

  • Crime records on arrests and convictions

  • Vehicle valuations

  • Mortality and hospital discharge records

  • Income data from Census and UI quarterly wage records

  • National voter records

  • State-level K-12 education records

Karina Dotson
Research & Insights Manager

“The comprehensive use of both quantitative and qualitative analysis allows us to delve into the complexities of people's lives. We are able to capture their nuanced experiences with rich qualitative narratives and also explore the causal factors behind those experiences with our quantitative data. This holistic approach is what drew me to the project and what I believe is foundational to creating change.”

Research as a public good

At OpenResearch, we strive to share findings on pivotal questions of our time with the world at large. 

OpenResearch is a nonprofit research organization conducting interdisciplinary research to fill significant knowledge gaps, leveraging startup-like creativity to discover new insights. 

From methodology to results, we partner with individuals, nonprofits, and academic institutions to achieve and communicate the most comprehensive and nuanced outcomes.