Since 2018, cash transfer programs in the US have increased substantially, driven by a cost-of living crisis, concerns over jobs lost to automation, and economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Governments, civil society, and private actors at the state, county, and city levels have implemented nearly 100 guaranteed income programs since 2018. Despite this growth, support for implementing such programs in the US has been quite limited. This brief provides an overview of the current landscape of cash transfer programs in the US. It identifies the types of programs being implemented and the target populations they serve, focusing on understanding how cash transfers reach and affect women across various groups.


The analysis presented in this brief is based on publicly available information from various sources, including academic literature and the websites of state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, media outlets, and research institutions. This analysis includes 90 concluded and current guaranteed income programs, with another 8 in the pipeline. Key findings: 

  • Guaranteed income programs have quickly become the most widely implemented type of cash transfer program in the US, with 90 guaranteed income programs implemented across 30 states and the District of Columbia, from 2017 to early 2023.
  • Guaranteed income programs are in different stages in the US, but few rigorous program evaluations are publicly available and research on their impact on gender equity is limited.
  • Gender-sensitive research on the impact of guaranteed income programs is needed to understand how they affect women, and to identify best practices in establishing gender-responsive programs.

Implications for Policy and Practice

In contrast to the experiences of many countries across the Global South, conditional cash transfers (CCT) programs have never been implemented in substantial numbers in the US. Unconditional cash transfers (UCT) have been adopted and implemented when there is support for the distribution of wealth generated from a community’s resources, or when a crisis calls for channeling assistance to a vulnerable and marginalized population, like families with children impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some unconditional programs were quickly adopted as part of public and private efforts to respond to the economic turmoil that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. But while these programs were temporary, mainly consisting of one-time lump-sum payments, the economic insecurity these programs were responding to continues to be experienced by individuals, households, and communities across the country. 

While reforms of the social protection system in the US have yet to occur, innovation in the form of guaranteed income (GI) program pilots has been taking place. Guaranteed income programs are established to support individuals and households receiving insufficient aid from existing government programs and have become a road to demonstrate the potential benefits of adopting a universal basic income. The implementation of 90 guaranteed income programs across the country presents an unprecedented opportunity to identify the benefits and limitations of such programs. But ensuring that adequate data collection and analysis occurs during and after pilot programs is essential to leveraging this unique moment. Moreover, ensuring that data collection and analysis employ a gender lens to evaluate the demonstrable and potential benefits of these programs for women, families, and children will be crucial to implementing gender-responsive programming. IWPR’s initial research into this important field is intended to provide a solid foundation for future studies on program effectiveness and impact on women and families.