It's an easy solution.
Giving people cash is intuitive: Low-income families lack flexible cash, live paycheck to paycheck, and are unable to save and generate wealth. Providing them with consistent, unconditional, and immediate cash is sometimes all it takes to lift them out of poverty. Let’s minimize our interference, and maximize our impact.
This stuff is flexible, so you get the biggest bang for your buck, and they do too.
The cash we put in the hands of mothers can be spent on food and formula, rent or car repairs, education, childcare or diapers -- we really don’t care (and you shouldn’t either!). It can be spent the day it arrives, or saved for an emergency or longer-term investment down the line. Regardless, people know how to budget and spend smartly -- it’s been shown that less than 1% of money from guaranteed income pilots goes towards tobacco and alcohol. And at the end of the day, it’s not up to us, and it’s not up to you -- it’s up to them. No one tells you how to spend your money, so give our mothers the same flexibility. Let’s stop pretending we know best.
Unconditional Cash is Empowering
The existing web of government programs and public support can feel arbitrary and demeaning. You’re asked to prove time and time again your direct need for even the most basic of items, and then are told the government will make all your decisions for you. Get this -- New York City’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides mothers with cash to spend on specified items, milk being one of them. You can get whole milk, nonfat milk, and 1% -- but not 2% milk. Call us crazy, but we think moms can handle picking out milk without government supervision.
Let’s move away from the narrative that low-income families can’t be trusted to make their own decisions, and start empowering them to choose what’s best for their own, unique circumstances. They know what they need, and we can allow them to meet those needs. We don’t need to overcomplicate it.
We know this works.
It’s more than an easy solution; it actually works. From various cities across the United States, to Iran, countries in Northern Europe, and to Kenya, guaranteed income projects across the globe confirm that we are able to successfully alleviate poverty when we give people money. Immediate needs are more easily met: housing, food, and healthcare -- but results go beyond just that. Unconditional cash enables recipients to find steady and full-time employment, allows recipients to live healthier lives, with notably less anxiety and lower depression levels, and creates new opportunities for self-determination, choice, goal-setting, and risk-taking.
Cash is the future
We’re just adding one more data point to the mounds of existing literature. Let’s create a system that can easily scale, and eliminate poverty, smartly, together.
“For a very long time now we've built a system that really doesn’t trust people. It tells people how to spend their money. The big idea is to rethink that and say people actually know what they need — they just don’t have the means to get there.”
-- Natalie Foster, Co-Founder of the Economic Security Project