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Recipients of Cambridge Guaranteed Income Pilot Saw Higher Employment, Study Finds

Rise Up Cambridge is a multi million dollar fund created by the City of Cambridge to support low-income households. Recipients of monthly payments through Cambridge RISE had greater full-time employment than a control group.
Rise Up Cambridge is a multi million dollar fund created by the City of Cambridge to support low-income households. Recipients of monthly payments through Cambridge RISE had greater full-time employment than a control group. By Sami E. Turner
By Avani B. Rai, Crimson Staff Writer

Recipients of monthly $500 payments as part of Cambridge RISE, the city’s guaranteed income pilot program, had greater full-time employment than a control group, according to a study released Wednesday.

The study, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, found that employment rates among the 130 households selected for the pilot rose from 36 percent to 40 percent after 12 months, while employment fell among the control group by two percentage points over the same period.

Geeta Pradhan, the president of the Cambridge Community Foundation, said Thursday that the results would be effective in “myth-busting” the notion that guaranteed income programs would disincentivize employment.

“It was very encouraging data,” she added.

The study also found that the households selected for the pilot saw “improvements in financial health, higher rates of employment, increased time and space for parenting, and improved educational outcomes for children.”

Recipients also reported higher incomes, higher food security, a lower housing cost burden, and lower income volatility.

Tina M. Alu, the director of the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee which led community engagement and outreach for the pilot, said she was most impressed by the “sense of greater financial health” among recipients, which she said made “a huge difference in the day-to-day lives of families.”

The pilot program, which was spearheaded by then-Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and launched in September 2021, was funded philanthropically by efforts led by the Cambridge Community Foundation. The program was expanded in 2022 using $22 million of federal Covid-19 relief funding, making it the third-largest guaranteed income program in the country.

Securing “sustainable public funding” will be a key focus as the city continues to explore guaranteed income, Siddiqui, who still serves on the City Council, said.

The impact of the pilot is especially significant, Pradhan said, because the cost of living in Cambridge is 500 percent of the federal poverty line. Without specialized programs, Pradhan added, many individuals living in Cambridge are both unable to make a living wage and ineligible for federal benefits.

“That’s a very vulnerable group too, that I think Cambridge needs to look at,” Pradhan said.

Residents older than 18 with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area median income that were single caregivers with at least one child under the age of 18 were eligible to participate in the pilot.

But Pradhan said the median income of the residents selected to participate was about $23,000, which she described as “very, very low-income.”

To fully address these residents’ needs, Pradhan added, Cambridge needs long-term solutions.

“We’ve started to think about the safety net,” she said.

“Right now, what we have is a band aid,” she added.

—Staff writer Avani B. Rai can be reached at avani.rai@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @avaniiiirai.

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