Research Shows $750 Monthly Payments Offer Minimal Relief from Poverty
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
LOS ANGELES — January 2, 2024 at 8:20 am PST — A groundbreaking study conducted by Professor Ben Henwood from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, in collaboration with the nonprofit Miracle Messages, has shed light on the persistent challenges of poverty in California. While the initiative provided 103 individuals in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles County with $750 per month for a year, the findings reveal that this amount falls significantly short of alleviating the overwhelming hopelessness associated with poverty in the state.
California is renowned for its wealth and innovation, but it is also home to some of the highest rates of poverty and homelessness in the nation. The partnership between USC and Miracle Messages aimed to explore whether modest financial assistance could make a meaningful difference in the lives of those facing economic hardship. While the results of the study are mixed, they underscore the profound complexities of poverty in California.
The study, which began in 2022 and concluded in 2023, distributed monthly payments of $750 to 103 participants over the course of a year. The recipients represented a diverse cross-section of individuals experiencing poverty, ranging from those without stable housing to those struggling to make ends meet. The research monitored their experiences and well-being throughout the year, seeking to understand the impact of this financial assistance on their lives.
Despite the initial hopes that $750 per month could provide a significant relief to those in need, the study’s results paint a sobering picture. While the extra income did help recipients cover some basic necessities, it was far from sufficient to address the root causes of their hardships. Many participants still struggled with housing insecurity, food insecurity, and limited access to healthcare and education.
Professor Ben Henwood, who led the research, noted, “Our findings reveal that in the high-cost environment of California, no amount less than $6,250 per month would relieve the overwhelming hopelessness of poverty. While $750 per month can provide a few nourishing meals and temporary relief, it is simply not enough to create lasting change in the lives of individuals experiencing poverty.”
The study also exposed the complex interplay between poverty and mental health. Participants reported experiencing ongoing stress and anxiety related to their financial instability. These mental health challenges often hindered their ability to secure stable employment and housing, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Miracle Messages, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting homeless individuals with their loved ones, played a crucial role in facilitating the study. The organization’s founder, Kevin Adler, expressed his commitment to addressing the larger issues surrounding poverty. “While our organization strives to reconnect homeless individuals with their families, we cannot ignore the systemic factors that contribute to homelessness and poverty,” said Adler. “This study has provided us with valuable insights into the depth of the problem and the urgency of finding meaningful solutions.”
The study’s results serve as a call to action for policymakers, advocates, and philanthropists to address the multifaceted challenges of poverty in California. Professor Henwood emphasized the need for comprehensive approaches to poverty alleviation, stating, “Addressing poverty in California requires a holistic approach that includes affordable housing, access to healthcare, education, and well-paying jobs. We cannot expect small cash payments alone to lift individuals out of poverty in such a high-cost environment.”
The University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and Miracle Messages remain committed to their mission of improving the well-being of individuals and communities facing poverty. They will continue to collaborate on research and initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of economic hardship and creating lasting change.
While the study’s findings are sobering, they provide a valuable foundation for future efforts to combat poverty in California. By acknowledging the need for comprehensive solutions and continued research, there is hope that the state can make progress towards a more equitable and prosperous future for all its residents.
For more information about the study and its findings, please contact USC.
About the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work is dedicated to promoting social change through education, research, and direct service. The school prepares social work professionals to improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities, with a strong commitment to social justice.
About Miracle Messages
Miracle Messages is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reuniting homeless individuals with their loved ones and providing support to those experiencing homelessness. Their work is centered on the belief that everyone deserves a safe and loving home.