A New Experiment in Guaranteed Income May Change Everything for Black Mothers

"In Her Hands" will provide direct cash payments to Black mothers in Georgia, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision for economic equality.

Mom Sitting on couch with two kids
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Mothers who live in poverty experience a particular kind of helplessness. It's in the stomach pangs and the food they can't access. It's in the lingering anxiety of bills they can't pay. It's in the frustration of all of the unworkable solutions. The unspoken truth is that, even if poor mothers work hard, things may not get better— it's nearly impossible to get out of poverty without real support.

A long history of racism and wage discrimination leave households led by Black mothers especially vulnerable to poverty and often they are simultaneously expected to remain strong and make something out of nothing. In Georgia, where Black families are four times more likely to live below the poverty line, a new guaranteed income experiment aims to improve the quality of life for hundreds of Black families by supporting Black women.

The Georgia Resilience & Opportunity (GRO) Fund and GiveDirectly are launching, "In Her Hands," a $13 million guaranteed income program that targets the income and wealth disparities that impact Black Georgians by providing 650 women across Georgia an average of $850 monthly for two years.

The project is the result of a community-driven task force exploring the causes of, and solutions for, economic insecurity and wealth disparities in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The task force found that Black women experience significant financial instability and economic insecurity, both of which have consequences for families and the larger community. Black women in Georgia earn 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns and 38 percent of Black women in the Old Fourth Ward of Atlanta live in poverty, compared to 26 percent of Black men and 8 percent of white women.

The GRO Fund partners with community members and policymakers to develop creative solutions to these racial justice issues. Participants receive "direct no-strings-attached cash payments" which allow them to meet their own needs and maintain agency in their decisions. The initiative expands on the vision of another Georgia resident who frequently spoke out against the inequities of capitalism and the importance of a guaranteed income – Martin Luther King Jr.

The name "In Her Hands" was inspired by King's statements on guaranteed income in 1967. "The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he know that he has the means to seek self-improvement," King wrote in his book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Unfortunately, little has changed in the Old Fourth Ward since King was raised there. "Nearly a century after his birth, Black residents living in Dr. King's childhood neighborhood are still more than four times more likely to be living under the federal poverty line than their white neighbors, with 46 percent of Black households earning below $25,000 a year," according to The GRO Fund.

Hopefully, through guaranteed income programs like "In Her Hands," change will finally be on the horizon for families in the Old Fourth Ward.

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