OUR APPROACH TO THE RESEARCH
We study instances where cash transfers have already been instituted. This means we can already study its effects to-date.
That’s where the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) comes in.
Since 1982, Alaska has paid every resident an ownership share, including children, just for being Alaskan. The amount that Alaskans get paid varies year to year and is exogenous to (i.e. determined by factors outside of) individual Alaskans and the Alaskan economy (i.e. exogenous). All of which means that it is a natural experiment that mimics a randomized controlled experiment, and we can learn a lot from it. We can compare year-to-year changes in the size of the payment and compare Alaskans before and after the money arrives every fall.
Our goal is to paint a complete picture of the effect of the PFD on Alaskans; therefore, we take a multi-disciplinary, multi-method approach. Researchers affiliated with the lab are looking at archives, analyzing big data, and embedding themselves in Alaskan communities.
The Alaskan population is large and demographically diverse, which makes it informative in general. Using high-quality data collection from sources such as the state’s vital registries, crime registries, surveys, and housing statistics, among other data, we can look at 35 years worth of evidence.
Many thought leaders theorize and speculate that unconditional cash transfers are an effective policy, but we do not know for sure how such a massive transfer of wealth would change America. The evidence from the PFD in Alaska will complement the evidence from the exciting randomized control studies currently underway.
RESEARCH AREAS AND QUESTIONS
Do cash transfers help people move out of poverty? Do they encourage or discourage people from seeking out work? Do they make people less motivated in their jobs? Do people reduce their working hours?
Do cash transfers affect family planning decisions? Does it change power dynamics in families or between partners? Does additional income help keep families in their homes? Do child welfare cases increase or decrease along with the money? Does additional income mean people work less and spend more time with their families?
Do cash transfers change access to preventative healthcare? Can it make us healthier? Or conversely, do we see a rise in accidents, hospitalizations and morbidity after the income is distributed?
Do cash transfers alleviate economic pressures that lead to crime? Can they interrupt school-to-prison pipelines? Can they exacerbate crime shortly after the money is disbursed?
Do cash transfers increase civic participation or social solidarity? Do unconditional cash transfers encourage democratic flourishing? How do different populations view and understand the income?