A 2016 survey credits the dividend with keeping two to three percent of Alaskans above the poverty line. However, there is some evidence that receiving a large lump sum payment can be detrimental. According to a study published in the Journal of Public Economics in 2011, Notre Dame economist William Evans and Timothy Moore from the University of Maryland found mortality among urban Alaskans increases by 13 percent during the week that fund direct deposits are made. (Mortality rates increase for other groups that receive lump payments, too.)
And a July 2010 paper from Scott Goldsmith, a Professor of Economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage, says that while there is not an overabundance of research into exactly what and how people are spending their checks, anecdotal evidence suggests that Alaskans tend to spend the lump sum payment right away, rather than using it to help sustain them through the year.
But "One reason for this is that a large dividend or the combination of several dividends together provides some recipients with the 'liquidity' necessary to buy an expensive consumer durable that provides consumption benefits lasting a long time—appliances, snow machines, etc.," says Goldsmith.
While the evidence is inconclusive surrounding the Alaskan cash handouts, one thing is more clear: once cash handouts are implemented and people expect them, they are very hard to reverse.
"The first lesson from Alaska is that once such a scheme is in place, it is very difficult to reverse. Popular support for these handouts is so strong that it is politically taboo to even suggest tampering with it," says a 2011 report from the World Bank in Mongolia, after the country had just instituted its own cash handout program.
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