POVERTY, INEQUALITY & OPPORTUNITY
Those in need spend direct cash payments mostly on food and other staples, study shows
People experiencing food insecurity who were given cash payments as part of a pilot study spent 75 percent of the money at grocery stores, restaurants, wholesale clubs, and convenience stores, according to a study by researchers at the Kennedy School’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. A preliminary analysis of five months of data from the $2.1 million “Chelsea Eats'' experiment shows that direct payments can be an effective tool against widespread food insecurity, says lead investigator and HKS Professor Jeffrey Liebman, who directs the Rappaport Institute. Starting last fall, the city-run program—which has been called the nation's largest guaranteed income program—distributed cash cards worth between $200 and $400 to approximately 2,000 low-income families in Chelsea, Massachusetts. “With 12 percent of Chelsea households receiving assistance, this program demonstrates that direct payments can be delivered at scale,” says Liebman, who co-authored the study with Rappaport Institute Executive Director Kathryn Carlson, Pamela Portocarrero of the HKS Government Performance Lab, and Eliza Novick of the Shah Family Foundation.