Publication Date



Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis


The concept of universal basic income (UBI) first gained traction in the United States in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and again recently due to the 2008 recession and COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the idea lags in popularity in comparison to existing cash transfer policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit and COVID relief packages. We hypothesize that this disparity is related to predicted uses of a UBI in comparison annual or lump sum cash programs. In this survey of 837 American Amazon MTurk workers, we explore whether predicted behavioral responses to four randomly assigned hypothetical cash transfer scenarios vary across the domains of amount and frequency. We find that respondents are more likely to associate monthly payments with work disincentives and lump-sum transfers with debt repayment. Implications for UBI advocates include the need to continue educating the public on the empirical associations between UBI, employment, and expenditures.

This study was supported by funds from the Hayek Fund for Scholars.

Document Type

Working Paper



financial security