Participants in a guaranteed income program in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were able to save more money, cover emergencies and had more time and space for parenting, which in turn positively impacted their children’s educational outcomes, according to a program assessment from the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cambridge Recurring Income for Success (RISE) was an 18-month guaranteed income program that offered 130 single caregivers $500 cash payments from September 2021 to February 2023. Participants — 96 percent of whom were women and 62 percent of whom were African American — had to have an income below 80 percent of the area’s median income to be eligible. Cambridge is just outside of Boston and home to Harvard University.

Participants’ ability to cover $400 emergencies increased from 33.8 percent at the start of the program to 41.5 percent six months after the program, though it declined to 30 percent by the program’s ending. Savings improved for participants between the 12 and 18-month marks, though most said their savings were stable throughout the program.

Mean housing cost burden, or the percentage of one’s income that goes towards housing needs, decreased for the RISE recipients from 50.5 percent to 41.8 percent by the end of the program. Full-time employment for participants increased from 36 percent at the baseline to 40 percent by the 12-month mark.

The pilot’s success validates supporters’ belief that guaranteed income programs help families and don’t encourage people to rely solely on the payments.

“Quite consistently, we see across all of these programs that people spend the money to support their families. No one’s going to quit working for $500 a month,” said Stacia West, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and the director and co-founder of the Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

“I think one of the major highlights out of Cambridge is this ability to save. Having $500 in your bank account can mean the difference between being able to get that tire fixed or not being able to make it to work, and that’s huge for so many American families,” West said.

Another important assessment of the program was on guaranteed income’s impact on participants’ sense of self, she said.

Read the full article about the benefits of guaranteed income by Darreonna Davis at The 19th.