A groundbreaking study to create economic opportunity.

About The $50 Study —

The $50 Study is a direct cash transfer program for high school aged students. From 2022 – 2024, Rooted School Foundation and The $50 Study will facilitate a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to explore the impacts of unconditional cash to teenagers, as participating students in this study receive $50 a week for 40 weeks. It is the first and largest study of its kind.


$1 Million

To further our cause, we’ve set up a 6-month Paypal campaign.

About this Program

The $50 Study is a direct cash transfer program. From 2022 – 2024 The $50 Study will run a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to assess the effectiveness of a cash transfer program for high school students. This study is in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Center for Guaranteed Income Research and the University of Tennessee – Knoxville School of Social Work. Early results from this study show that transfers:

reduce students’ financial hardship

enhance their financial capability

promote upward economic mobility

positively impact students’ academic achievement

The $50 Study

From 2022-2024, high school students will participate in a study wherein some students will be randomized into a treatment condition receiving $50/week unconditionally for 40 weeks, and others will be randomized into a control condition, receiving no cash intervention. The study explores the impact of these cash transfers on a multitude of outcomes, including academic outcomes, perceptions of self and financial well-being.

Research questions that we will explore during the study are:

  1. Do direct cash transfers promote students’ financial stability and freedom?
  2. Does guaranteed income improve students’ financial capability and financial socialization?
  3. How does guaranteed income impact students’ future orientation?
  4. Does guaranteed income impact academic and school performance?

The study will be conducted in two phases. Phase I ran through the 2022 – 2023 school year, with 153 participating students (treatment group = 82 students) in New Orleans and Indianapolis. Phase II will be conducted through the 2023 – 2024 school year with 314 students from the same two cities (treatment group = 91 students).

Are Direct Cash Transfer Programs Effective?

Direct cash transfer programs have arguably the strongest existing evidence base among anti-poverty tools, and the positive outcomes of cash transfers have been repeatedly demonstrated in studies around the world. We are inspired by the work of organizations like GiveDirectly and the evidence supporting universal basic income and cash transfers in providing short-term financial stability and long-term economic mobility.

1. Cash transfers have well-documented positive effects on recipients worldwide, with dozens of high-quality evaluations of cash transfer programs spanning Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

3. Studies have shown that cash transfer programs lead to positive long-term outcomes as recipients often save or invest a portion of their cash.

4. Despite stereotypes about how people experiencing poverty choose to spend their money, studies consistently show that recipients of cash transfers spend their money on things that positively impact their own lives.

RCT Early Findings

Students receive $50 a week on reloadable debit cards. Students are free to spend the money as they see fit. Cards are able to be used for online shopping, are able to be connected to digital banks (CashApp, etc) and can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs. Students can also use the accounts created when they received the cards for any direct deposits through jobs that they might have. Students spend their money in ways that suggest the cards address immediate needs: food, transportation and retail. The spending pattern of students reflect the same patterns of adults in similar types of programs.

Increased Opportunity

Quotes from students below were captured while recording the Rooted Cash Podcast, a student led podcast produced in collaboration with BeLoud Studios Students shared that they were able to take advantage of more opportunities because of the $50 transfers. Many students expressed that they no longer had to ask their parents for money to participate in extracurriculars, or to engage in activities that support their future, like college trips.

12th Grader, New Orleans

“The deposit for my college was $700. So, this other program I did was able to pay $500 of it, but the $200, I was able to use my $50 a week card to pay that deposit, which was pretty nice. And then also I was able to pay for my license and my driving classes with the $50 a week card.

11th Grader, Indianpolis

“I feel like it definitely changed my social life. I’ve been able to go places, experience new things. You know, I never even thought about that. The social aspect is also very important, like going out with friends to the movies. Things of that nature really help build up your people skills, right? I feel like being able to go and hang out with my friends a couple days out of the week, especially after stuff like the SATs, which we just did recently, it definitely takes a huge weight off my shoulders, stress-wise.

11th Grader, Indianpolis

“So with this $50 cash study, I’ve been able to buy sports equipment. You know, we just used some of my $50 to fund a college field trip to Cincinnati State and Ohio State.

10th Grader, New Orleans

“I noticed that in math class, I caught on to all of the money-based problems and solved those problems faster than most of the other problems because I learned how to do a lot of things with the money that I’m saving.

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“So like, before, I would just spend, spend, spend, but now I can spend, then save. I don’t have to keep spending, spending, spending. I can just do the smart thing instead of doing what I wanted to. This is not just a handout, this is a tool for us to use for the future, basically. Like, me being better with money now, when I’ve just turned 18 and just, this is really the perfect time for it. I’m getting 50 a week. I can start doing something with that. I can start investing and I can save it. I can do a lot of things than just spend it. So I think it’s teaching us how to do more with money.”

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“So, at first, I’m not going to lie, I spent most of it really fast. Like every $50, I’d spend it mostly on food. I started to realize I have a bad fast food habit. But now I’m actually saving my “50s” because I want to be able to buy a car and I can’t do that if all my money’s going to fast food.”

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“The study has definitely taught me that things are expensive, my goodness, things are expensive and it goes so quick, it goes so quick. It’s definitely taught me to think about it, budget it, separate needs and wants.

Impact on
Financial Capability

Students also shared the ways that the cash transfers have positively impacted their financial literacy and capability. Students were able to articulate new skills and new mindsets related to financial literacy and capability.

Impact on Family and Community

The transfers have also had a positive impact on students’ mental health, as well as their relationship with their family and family members. Students shared feeling closer to their siblings and parents because of the transfers.

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“My brother’s birthday passed two weeks back and I was able to get him something for the first time. I helped my brother pay for lunch. I was like, “Hey, I have some extra money. Let me go get some cash and I’ll give it to him.” And I did that. That was nice. My sister wanted money to go out with her friends. I was able to help her with that. I heard her talking to my mom and I said, “Hey, I got you. Here’s $10. You should be able to get some food. You can go hang out with your friends. I’ll see you later. You can keep the change if there is any left.” So it definitely changed that and our relationship. I feel closer to them.”

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“With my mother, we’re definitely tighter. I would say, because I’m helping her out a lot, so she sees me as somebody who’s growing up trying to provide for her, her kids, you know, still putting money into school and businesses and things like that. So she sees that I’m trying to make a difference rather than, you know, just spending the money and everything else.”

11th Grader, Indianapolis

“I am also an older sister. There’s three of us. And because I’m the eldest, I don’t ask for much unless it’s for sports, school, or something essential. But the $50 gave me the chance to take a large portion of stuff towards me. So my Mom and Dad don’t have to worry about that. I spent $87 on braids, and my mom usually does that every round. So every three to four months she has to spend around $87+ on hair for me. But I was able to take that away from her so she can focus on herself or any bills that need to be paid or my brother and sister. It was nice to take that worry away from her.”

Academic Impact

GPA: Median increase in GPA for 56% in treatment compared to 50% in control.

Credit Attainment: Median increase in credits obtained for treatment students.

Lexile (Reading Level): Median Lexile growth of 10 points for treatment students.

Attendance: 38% of students in treatment saw a decrease in absences compared to 27% in control.

Disclaimer: As the study is currently in progress, this data is inconclusive.

The $50 Study: MidStudy Report - August 2023
Penultimate Rooted Schools Report - May 2022

How to Get Involved


 Our study is doing groundbreaking work to explore innovative interventions to create economic opportunity. 

Share our Mission

Questions and media inquiries about The $50 Study can be directed to youthcashtransfer@rootedschool.org

What your funds make possible:


$50 = 1 student’s weekly transfer

$200 = 1 student’s transfers for a month

$500 = 1 podcast episode

$1000 = 1 week of all Rooted NOLA student transfers

$2000 = 1 student’s transfers for 40 weeks (the whole study!)

$3000 = All transfers for 40 weeks and associated programmatic costs

$5000 = 5 weeks of Rooted NOLA student transfers

$10k = Either 10 weeks of Rooted NOLA student transfers or 3 weeks of Collegiate Academy student transfers

The $50 Study in the Media

Indy Star: Will $50 a week teach kids fiscal skills in Indianapolis school’s study, close wealth gap?

The charter chain’s “moonshot,” as its website states, is to close the wealth gap between Black and white Americans. The $50 cash project is a teaching tool toward that mission.

Read Now >

The 74: From Fast Food to Savings Accounts, $50 Weekly Payments Shift Students’ Thinking

Rooted Schools in Indianapolis and New Orleans build student financial literacy with guaranteed income.

Read Now >

Fast Company: The $50 Study was highlighted in Fast Company's list of World Changing Ideas in 2023.

The study was awarded as a Finalist in the Social Justice Category and as an Honorable Mention in the North America and Experimental Category.

Read Now >

SXSW Session: The $50 Study - Creating an Income Floor for Teens

A first-of-its-kind program explores the impact of giving unconditional cash to youth, starting with teens.

Learn More >

Rooted Cash Podcast

A student led podcast where recipients are able to share their experiences and reflections as participants. The podcast is MC-ed by a former $50 Study recipient, Vernell Cheneau, and is produced by BeLoud Studios.