Abstract: The Impact of Guaranteed Income on Locus of Control and Hope Among People Experiencing Homelessness: A Mixed-Methods Randomized Control Study (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

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The Impact of Guaranteed Income on Locus of Control and Hope Among People Experiencing Homelessness: A Mixed-Methods Randomized Control Study

Sunday, January 14, 2024
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Daniel Brisson, PhD, Professor, University of Denver, CO
Katie Calhoun, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, OH
Marisa Westbrook, Assistant Professor, Oregon State University, OR
Stephanie Locke, Research Assistant, University of Denver, CO
Background and Purpose

One visible example of growing poverty in the United States is the increase in homelessness in cities across the country. The number of people experiencing homelessness in the United States is contentious, with reports ranging from 550,000 to 1.5 million people. One emerging approach to address issues associated with homelessness is to provide guaranteed income. This paper provides early results of the impact of guaranteed income on hope and locus of control for people experiencing homelessness.


The Denver Basic Income Project (DBIP) is a 12-month program providing unconditional cash transfers to 804 unhoused people living in Denver, CO. Research on DBIP uses a mixed methods randomized controlled trial (RCT) design to test the impact of receiving a guaranteed basic income compared to receiving typical care and services. The 804 participants are randomized into one of three conditions:

  • Group A receives 12 monthly cash transfers of $1,000
  • Group B receive a one-time cash transfer of $6,500 during the initial enrollment month and then 11 monthly cash transfers of $500.
  • Group C receive 12 monthly cash transfers of $50. Group C is considered the active control condition.

Data are collected using a pre-post survey design where participants complete the survey at enrollment in DBIP and then 6 months post-enrollment. The survey includes a validated scale of hope and a validated locus of control scale. Also, twenty-four participants (eight from Group A, eight from Group B, and eight from Group C) participate in qualitative interviews two-months after DBIP enrollment.


Baseline characteristics show that responses to the hope scale and the locus of control scale are comparable across the three treatment groups (Hope Group A: M=4.9, SD=1.6; Group B: M=4.7, SD=1.6; Group C: M=4.6, SD=1.7), (Locus of Control Group A: M=5.4, SD=1.5; Group B: M=5.2, SD=1.6; Group C: M=5.3, SD=1.6) and therefore will be useful in detecting change at 6 months (data available for 6-month follow-up in July 2023). Qualitative findings indicate that Group A and Group B participants both experienced hope and control after two-months in DBIP. One participant from Group A reported, “it’s been a lifeline,” and another said, “now everything I make and everything that comes in has a purpose.”


Early results from DBIP show that participants in the program experience hope and control over their lives. Scale scores show that hope and locus of control are comparable at baseline for the three randomized treatment conditions and should reveal any impact of treatment when the 6-month data becomes available in July 2023. As one of the largest guaranteed income experiments in the United States, and the largest guaranteed income program for people experiencing homelessness, policymakers and practitioners will benefit from understanding the impact of DBIP on the health and well-being of participants.