All participants will be adults living in the United States who have signed up to receive financial assistance from the non-profit organization. To be eligible, participants must be low-income (defined in varying ways depending on the region and funder restrictions), have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and have not previously received funding from the partnering non-profit organization.
Participants consenting to participate in the study will be asked to complete a profile survey (which will ask about basic demographics) and a baseline survey (“t1 survey”). Participants who complete both the profile and t1 surveys will then be randomly assigned to either receive no UCT (“Control” group), a $500 UCT (“Small Cash” group), or a $2,000 UCT (“Large Cash” group). All UCTs will be paid approximately 3.5 weeks after the t1 survey is completed (the reasoning for this is explained in the next paragraph).
Approximately one week after the UCT payments are made, participants will be asked to complete the t2 survey. One month after the t2 survey, participants will be sent the t3 survey. Two months after the t3 survey, participants will be sent the t4 survey. Note that this timing ensures that all four surveys (t1, t2, t3, and t4 surveys) are administered at approximately the same time of month. The timing of the UCT payment (exactly 1 week before the t2 survey, or approximately 3.5 weeks after the t1 survey) allows us to capture short-term (1 week) effects of the payments. Conditional on us being able to secure funding, participants will also receive a fifth survey several months after t4 (at t5), which will allow us to capture even longer term effects.
Participants will have as much time as they want to complete the profile and t1 surveys. For all subsequent surveys, they are given up to 10 days to complete each survey. The surveys will vary in small ways across the time periods.
Participants will be paid $20 for each survey they complete, plus an additional $20 completion bonus if they complete all the surveys. In addition, participants will receive 2 lottery tickets for completing the profile and first main survey, and one lottery ticket for each survey they complete after that. They receive an additional 5 lottery tickets if they complete all the surveys. Each lottery ticket is worth a chance at winning an additional $1,000 prize. Payments for each completed survey will be made immediately after the survey is completed. The completion bonus and lottery payments (if any) will be made after the fourth survey. A third party organization will deposit both the UCTs and survey payments directly into participants’ bank accounts, the information for which must be provided at sign up.
In addition, all participants will also be randomly assigned to either have access to the organization’s online platform or not. This platform aims to connect households receiving help from the organization to support social capital creation and maintenance. As described further in our analysis plan, however, our primary specifications will collapse across these groups and only examine the main effects of the UCT amounts.