Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Free Money: Social Meanings and Practical Implementation in Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend Program
Authors: Reibstein, Sarah
Advisors: Starr, Paul
Contributors: Sociology Department
Subjects: Sociology
Public policy
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) is the most significant system in the U.S. of universal cash transfers from government to individuals. As interest in unconditional cash and universal basic income is increasing throughout academia and policy, there is a need for closer examination of existing models to understand how these programs work in practice. This study contributes to filling that gap. A mixed methods study drawing from 72 in-depth interviews with Alaska residents alongside quantitative and legislative data, the dissertation provides insight into key administrative features of the program, how beneficiaries interact with it, and how it has shaped and been shaped by a distinctive Alaskan politics of resource wealth. Investigating the PFD’s eligibility criteria, access barriers, and take-up, I find that there are limits to its universality. Shedding light on the system of garnishments associated with the program, I show that these overlooked regulations serve to make the PFD less equal than it looks on paper. Analyzing qualitative data on how Alaskans spend, save, gift, or neglect their PFD money, I reveal some of the different roles the cash transfer plays in individuals’ and families’ financial lives. The findings suggest that the PFD has a limited effect on mitigating inequality or enhancing mobility, but it provides an important cash safety net for low-income working families and is valued by many as a bonus that opens up possibilities for different kinds of spending. In the final chapter, I discuss the PFD’s place in Alaskan politics, showing how it has gone from near universal support to a contentious fracturing in the last decade. I find that small government conservatives – and a less visible group of leftists and radicals – are the biggest supporters of the program, with liberals and centrists aligning to support cutting dividends back. Taken as a whole, the dissertation is relevant to economic and political sociology and the study of inequality and social welfare as well as to practitioners involved in policy implementation.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2024-11-22. For questions about theses and dissertations, please contact the Mudd Manuscript Library. For questions about research datasets, as well as other inquiries, please contact the DataSpace curators.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.