Universal Cash Transfers Reduce Childhood Obesity Rates
41 Pages Posted:
Date Written: April 29, 2019
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-os 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: Suggested Citation