Universal Cash Transfers Reduce Childhood Obesity Rates

41 Pages Posted: 25 May 2019

See all articles by Brett Watson

Brett Watson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mouhcine Guettabi

Institute of Social and Economic Research

Matthew N Reimer

University of Alaska Anchorage - Institute of Social and Economic Research

Date Written: April 15, 2019

Abstract

We evaluate the impact of universal income on childhood obesity. While the goals of implementing universal income are many, its influence on childhood obesity is of particular interest given the growing obesity epidemic and its future threat to global public health. We use evidence from Alaska’s universal income program, the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), which has provided annual, unconditional, and universal income to Alaskan residents for over thirty-five years. We use both survey and administrative data to evaluate how the availability of unconditional resources at an early developmental stage, in terms of PFD payments to the child, affects a child’s body mass index (BMI). Using date-of-birth eligibility cut-offs as an identification strategy, we find that an additional one thousand dollars in PFD payments decreases the probability of an Alaskan child being obese by as much as 4.5 percentage points. Back-of-the-envelope calculations for Alaska suggest these reduction may avert 500 cases of obesity and achieve medical cost savings of $2-10 million per year. These findings highlight just one of the potential social benefits of universal income and the potential it has as a tool for addressing the obesity epidemic.

Keywords: Permanent Fund Dividend; Unconditional cash transfer; Welfare effects; Childhood Obesity; Universal Income

JEL Classification: I12, H24, I38, J18

Suggested Citation

Watson, Brett and Guettabi, Mouhcine and Reimer, Matthew N, Universal Cash Transfers Reduce Childhood Obesity Rates (April 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3380033 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3380033

Brett Watson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Mouhcine Guettabi (Contact Author)

Institute of Social and Economic Research ( email )

3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508
United States
9077865496 (Phone)

Matthew N Reimer

University of Alaska Anchorage - Institute of Social and Economic Research ( email )

United States

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