Cash and Worker Power

A New Tool to Improve Jobs and Empower Workers

03. 02. 2023

A guaranteed income gives workers the agency to leave low-quality jobs and pursue better opportunities, increasing competition and raising the floor

This event was hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program

Guaranteed income is gaining increasing momentum across the US. The bipartisan idea, which has roots in the nation’s founding, the New Deal, the Nixon Administration, and the Civil Rights Movement, is being piloted in more than 100 demonstration sites across the country. The expanded Child Tax Credit — a guaranteed income for children — and stimulus payments during the pandemic were the largest unrestricted cash payments to families ever on a federal scale. Research shows that guaranteed income can reduce poverty and help families cover basic expenses like food, housing, and child care. Less well understood, however, is the impact guaranteed income can have on work.

Contrary to myths that cash transfers could disincentivize work, guaranteed income may in fact support work and workers. Data from recent pilots has provided strong evidence. In Stockton, CA, for example, recipients were more likely to work full time. What is the possible impact on the labor market more broadly, though, and especially on the quality of jobs? How might the security of a guaranteed income provide workers agency, strengthen competition, and raise the floor for all?