Effects of a Universal Basic Income During the Pandemic

Can cash transfers mitigate the impact on poor families during the crisis?

The spread of COVID-19 and of consequent restrictions on economic activity pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of many of the poorest, most vulnerable families on the planet. Governments have responded with an unprecedented expansion in their social protection programming. Between 20 March and 12 June, 195 countries introduced 1,024 new social protection measures covering an estimated 1.7 billion individuals. Cash transfers make up a large share of this expansion, reaching 1.2 billion people. 

This working paper examines the impact of transfers during the pandemic, taking advantage of a unique field experiment with Universal Basic Income (“UBI”) which had begun prior to the pandemic in Bomet and Siaya counties of Kenya. Several specific design features make this study relevant for informing policy responses to COVID-19.

About this Publication

By Abhijit Banerjee, Michael Faye, Alan Krueger, Paul Niehaus & Tavneet Suri