Unconditional Cash and Family Investments in Infants: Evidence from a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Experiment in the U.S

44 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2022 Last revised: 3 Sep 2022

See all articles by Lisa A. Gennetian

Lisa A. Gennetian

Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

Greg Duncan

University of California, Irvine

Nathan Fox

University of Maryland

Katherine Magnuson

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Sarah Halpern-Meekin

UW Madison

Kiimberly Noble

Columbia University, Teachers' College

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

New York University (NYU) - New York University

Date Written: August 2022

Abstract

A key policy question in evaluating social programs to address childhood poverty is how families receiving unconditional financial support would spend those funds. Economists have limited empirical evidence on this topic in the U.S. We provide causal estimates of financial and time investments in infants among families living in poverty from a large-scale, multi-site randomized controlled study of monthly unconditional cash transfers starting at the time of a child’s birth. We find that the cash transfers increased spending on child-specific goods and mothers’ early-learning activities with their infants. The marginal propensity to consume child-focused items from the cash transfer exceeded that from other income, consistent with the behavioral cues in the cash transfer design. We find no statistically detectable offsets in household earnings nor statistically detectable impacts in other pre-registered outcomes related to general household expenditures, maternal labor supply, infants’ time in childcare, or mothers’ subjective well-being.

Suggested Citation

Gennetian, Lisa A. and Duncan, Greg and Fox, Nathan and Magnuson, Katherine and Halpern-Meekin, Sarah and Noble, Kimberly and Yoshikawa, Hirokazu, Unconditional Cash and Family Investments in Infants: Evidence from a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Experiment in the U.S (August 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w30379, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4203053

Lisa A. Gennetian (Contact Author)

Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://sanford.duke.edu/profile/lisa-gennetian/

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

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Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://www.povertyactionlab.org/person/gennetian

Greg Duncan

University of California, Irvine ( email )

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Irvine, CA 62697-3125
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Nathan Fox

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Katherine Magnuson

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

Sarah Halpern-Meekin

UW Madison ( email )

Kimberly Noble

Columbia University, Teachers' College ( email )

525 W. 120th St.
New York, NY 10027
United States

Hirokazu Yoshikawa

New York University (NYU) - New York University ( email )

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