Universal Basic Income in Kenya

Last registered on September 18, 2020


Trial Information

General Information

Universal Basic Income in Kenya
Initial registration date
April 15, 2018

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
April 17, 2018, 3:22 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
September 18, 2020, 1:36 PM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


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Primary Investigator

MIT Sloan School

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
PI Affiliation
Give Directly

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
A universal basic income (UBI) is a recurring, unconditional cash transfer sized to meet basic needs and paid to all members of a society. Proponents argue that a UBI has the potential to eliminate extreme poverty and to counteract the harmful effects of rising inequality in wealthier countries. Interest has surged, with UBI actively debated in countries ranging from Switzerland and Finland to Namibia and India. Yet, while cash transfers in general have a strong evidence base, a full basic income has never been implemented or rigorously evaluated. This study proposes to fill these evidence gaps with an ambitious long-term randomized control trial in Kenya.

The core objective is to test the hypothesis that a universal basic income is an effective way to eliminate extreme global poverty. This is a central policy question currently being debated in a number of emerging markets, and is also highly relevant for foreign aid policy given that the global poverty gap has fallen to $80B a year as of 2015, less than half of official development assistance flows. Positive results could shift public spending away from in-kind and means-tested programs, while negative ones could have the opposite effect. As a secondary goal, the study also aims to inform debate on the role of UBI in wealthy countries. While the populations are obviously different from those we will work with in East Africa, many of the core questions about human behavior are the same – does economic security motivate people to work more or less? To socialize more or less? etc. At a minimum, positive results from a low-cost emerging-market evaluation could be motivator for testing more expensive guarantees in richer countries.

Finally, it is worth emphasizing that in the process of producing this evidence the project will also directly benefit some of the poorest people on the planet by delivering cash transfers to them. The broader evidence base on cash transfers suggests that these recipients will reap life-changing benefits from participating in the project.

Registration Citation

Banerjee, Abhijit et al. 2020. "Universal Basic Income in Kenya." AEA RCT Registry. September 18. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1952-2.1
Former Citation
Banerjee, Abhijit et al. 2020. "Universal Basic Income in Kenya." AEA RCT Registry. September 18. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1952/history/76108
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


This projects studies the impacts of a universal basic income on Kenyan households. It aims to test across three different interventions: a short term two year universal basic income, a long term twelve year universal basic income and a lump sum cash transfer. These interventions will be conducted by GiveDirectly (the cash transfers are implemented over mobile money) but the study will be independently run by Innovations for Poverty Action Kenya.

The cash transfers will be implemented uniformly across the relevant treatment villages. However, GiveDirectly will also implement two different nudges that will be randomized at the household level: a savings nudge and a planning nudge (as described in more detail below).
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
The main outcomes of interest are economic status (income, consumption, assets, and food security), anthropometrics (for children in the household between 2-12 years of age), time use (work, education, leisure, community involvement), risk-taking (especially, migrating and starting businesses), gender relations (especially female empowerment), aspirations and mental health.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
There are three different treatments arms planned for the cash transfers:

1. Long-term (twelve years) payments sized to be sufficient for basic needs ($0.75 nominal per adult per day), (given out monthly): 44 villages

2. Short-term (two years) payments sized to be sufficient for basic needs (($0.75 nominal per adult per day), (given out monthly): 80 villages

3. Lump sum payments sized with net present value equivalent to the short term payments arm (~$500 per adult), given in 2-3 lump sum payments: 71 villages

There would be a additional control group, that does not receive cash payments, covering 100 villages. In total, there will be 295 villages in the trial, from two different counties in Kenya, Siaya and Bomet.

Randomization for the cash transfers will be conducted at the village level, stratified by location - where location is an administrative unit of land in Kenya which is coarser than the village demarcation and finer than the county demarcation.

All full-time adult residents (i.e. above 18 years of age) of the village will receive cash transfers according to their treatment designation. In addition, in the long term arm, individuals above the age of 15 but under 18 will all start receiving the cash transfers three years into the study.

The study sample will consist of 30 randomly selected households from each of the 295 villages in the sample. In addition, there will a household-level randomization of nudges. A third of households in each treatment village will be given a savings nudge about M-Shwari and M-Akiba and the ability to save in a safe and secure place at the relevant interest rates for each product. A third of households will be given a planning nudge that encourages them to make plans of what they will do with the cash transfers. The remaining third of households will not receive any nudge. This randomization will be stratified so that among the 30 households sampled in each treatment village exactly 10 households will receive each nudge. The control villages will not receive any nudges.

GiveDirectly will enrol participants and implement the cash transfers. The transfers will all be delivered digitally through mobile money. They will also deliver the nudges at the time they are enrolling the cash transfer recipients in the treatment villages.

The study is being conducted by Innovations for Poverty Action Kenya (IPAK). IPAK completed a census of study villages between 21st April and 27th June 2017. The baseline household survey started on 8th June 2017 and was completed on the 13th September 2017. In addition, a section of the baseline survey that focuses on women's empowerment was repeated with the spouse of the household head by phone once the baseline has been completed. At the same time as the baseline, IPAK is conducted a village elder survey and a market survey (the sample of markets was drawn from the set of local markets provided during village censusing activites). All survey questionnaires are enclosed as additional documentation for the trial.

Enrollment of transfer recipients by GiveDirectly is began in November 2017 and is expected to be completed in April 2018.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
All randomization for the project was completed using statistical software. Village-level treatment randomization was conucted using R and the within-village nudge randomization was completed in Stata.
Randomization Unit
There are two units of randomization. The cash transfers will be randomized at the village level. The nudges will be randomized within treatment villages at the household level.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
295 villages are in the trial in total. In each village, the study will track 30 households.

In addition, at baseline we will conduct a village elder survey in all 295 villages and market surveys across these villages in the 105 local markets where study participants buy the majority of their goods.
Sample size: planned number of observations
There will be approximately 8,850 households surveyed as part of the study (inc. treatment and control households). However, there will be approximately 9,600 households, or 22,00 individuals, receiving some payment from the study (inc. all three treatment groups).
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The number of villages per treatment arm is as follows: 44 villages receiving long-term basic income payments, 80 villages receiving short-term basic income payments, 71 villages receiving lump-sum basic income payments, and 100 villages in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Committee on the Use of Humans as Experimental Subjects at MIT
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
University of California, San Diego
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Princeton University
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
IRB Name
Maseno University, Kenya
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

Analysis Plan Documents

Pre-analysis plan

MD5: 290765ccda1250c85597fa96c132129c

SHA1: 00173b718e18ff69912ee82847ce60d2d9c15ac4

Uploaded At: September 09, 2019