Basic Income Program for High School Students Named Finalist in Fast Company’s 2023 World Changing Idea Awards

Vernell Cheneau III participated in the guaranteed income study as a student at the Rooted School from October 2020 to October 2021. Now Vernell moderates the Rooted Cash Podcast telling the story of students participating in the study. Vernell is photographed near his home in New Orleans, La. Friday, March 25, 2022. (Photo by Max Becherer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

NEW ORLEANS , May 2, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The 50 Dollar Study was named a Finalist in the Social Justice Category of Fast Company ‘s 2023 World Changing Ideas Awards. The seventh annual awards honor sustainable designs, innovative products, bold social initiatives, and other creative projects that are changing the way we work, live, and interact with the world.

About The 50 Dollar Study
The 50 Dollar Study is a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to assess the effectiveness of a cash transfer program for high school students facilitated by Rooted School Foundation in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Center for Guaranteed Income Research and the University of Tennessee – Knoxville School of Social Work. The study will investigate the impact of direct, unconditional cash transfers on reducing financial hardship, enhancing financial capability, and promoting upward economic mobility, as well as the impact on students’ academic achievement.

The 50 Dollar Study is the first study of its kind in which a high school serves as the disbursement provider, and is the most empirically driven guaranteed income pilot with this specific age group. Rooted School Foundation hopes to leverage the findings from the RCT to increase the number of schools and districts that participate in similar programs.

From 2022 – 2024, 470 students in grades 9-12 will be randomly assigned to one of two groups, one that will receive $50 /week unconditionally for 40 weeks (treatment group), and a control group which will receive no cash transfers). The study will collect quantitative and qualitative data through recipient surveys, transaction data and interviews.

Rooted School will publish a mid-study report in Winter 2024. An ongoing podcast, The Rooted Cash Podcast , produced in collaboration with BeLoud Studios and hosted by Rooted Alumni Vernell Cheneau, shares recipient stories and experiences in narrative format. Additional study updates are shared via Instagram ( @the50dollarstudy ).

The 50 Dollar Study is funded through institutional grants and individual donors. Individuals who would like to contribute to the ongoing efforts of The 50 Dollar Study, can visit the study’s Indiegogo page or reach out to the study at .

“Schools can innovate and reach new bounds in the ways that cities can. Thanks to the teams of people who are making this happen. The sky is the limit on the impact this could have.” Jonathan Johnson , Founder and CEO of RSF who also works with the Guaranteed Income & Health Consortium at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“In recent years we have seen the power of unconditional cash to provide stability and unlock potential for adults across the country. This groundbreaking study with high school students will provide new insight into how cash may help students realize their academic, financial, and developmental potential.” – Stacia West , MSSW, PhD, Director, Center for Guaranteed Income Research, University of Pennsylvania , Associate Professor, University of Tennessee College of Social Work

“The economic mobility challenges of the second half of the 21st Century will require stronger schools, smarter policies, and better social support than ever before. This initiative is an example of concrete innovation that can be studied, refined, and scaled—and have an immediate impact in the community.” – Christopher N. Ruszkowski , RSF National Board Chair and CEO of Meeting Street Schools

“Rooted Schools’ cash transfer program puts agency and choice in the hands of young people to help direct their futures. As a former New Orleans teacher, I saw how scrappy and resilient students are, but how they are too often asked to do more with less.

This study shows that when we provide young people with resources and choices, we’re investing in our collective future.” – Hope Wollensack , Founder and Executive Director of Georgia Resilience and Opportunity Fund

About the World Changing Ideas Awards: World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs and is focused on social good, seeking to elevate finished products and brave concepts that make the world better. A panel of judges from across multiple sectors choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions based on feasibility and the potential for impact. With the goals of awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, Fast Company draws attention to ideas with great potential and helps them expand their reach to inspire more people to start working on solving the problems that affect us all. This year’s World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 45 winners, 216 finalists, and more than 300 honorable mentions.

You may also be interested in...