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Exploring the experiences and dynamics of an unconditional cash transfer for low-income mothers: A mixed-methods study


Little is understood about how an unconditional cash transfer might operate and affect behavior among low-income parents of infants in the United States. We investigate these questions using data from a random-assignment pilot study (N = 30) in which unconditional cash transfers were distributed monthly on debit cards to two groups of low-income parents in New York City during the first 12 months of their newborns’ lives. Mothers were randomized to receive either $100 per month or $20 per month. Mothers distinguished spending the cash transfer on essentials vs. extras, such as going out to dinner with family. The monthly cash transfer “tided them over,” even at the lower amount of $20, especially when income from other sources ran short at the end of the month. Some mothers reported saving money for unexpected expenses.

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