No Strings Attached: The Behavioral Effects of U.S. Unconditional Cash Transfer Programs

Ioana Marinescu

NBER Working Paper No. 24337
Issued in February 2018
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies, Public Economics

The universal basic income has become a widely discussed measure in policy circles around the world. In this review, we cover the evidence relevant to its potential impact in the US, and in developed countries more generally. Many studies find no statistically significant effect of an unconditional cash transfer on the probability of working. In the studies that do find an effect on labor supply, the effect is small: a 10% income increase induced by an unconditional cash transfer decreases labor supply by about 1%. The evidence shows that an unconditional cash transfer can improve health and educational outcomes, and decrease criminality and drug & alcohol use, especially among the most disadvantaged youths.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.


Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24337

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Bryan, Choi, and Karlan w24278 Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes
Auclert and Rognlie w24280 Inequality and Aggregate Demand
Jones and Marinescu w24312 The Labor Market Impacts of Universal and Permanent Cash Transfers: Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund
Stansbury and Summers w24165 Productivity and Pay: Is the link broken?
Fowlie, Wolfram, Spurlock, Todd, Baylis, and Cappers w23553 Default Effects and Follow-On Behavior: Evidence from an Electricity Pricing Program
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us