Researchers say people living in cashless debit card trial sites in WA and SA have been leaving town faster than those in similar towns across the outback.
Researchers believe there's a link between the cashless welfare card and population drops in the West and South Australian towns involved in the scheme's trial.
A joint paper from Macquarie University, the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University released on Thursday said one trial area in WA lost 5.2 per cent of its population.
Towns in South Australia lost up to 2.2 per cent of their populations.
Using census data, the researchers compared towns in the trial sites to nearby areas based on factors like remoteness, population, Aboriginal population and employment rates.
They have called on policymakers to pay attention to the effect the cards have on regional populations, especially on Aboriginal people.
The report says the trial sites targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders disproportionately, making up at least two-thirds of the population in both sites.
"The implementation of the card trial in the East Kimberley was swift and disorderly, taking many of the people who would be put on the card by surprise," the report says.
Researchers spoke to locals who reported people leaving town - some by the busload - after the announcement of the trials.
"These stories came from not only people who were put on the card but also various service providers who noticed people missing," the report says.
Researchers also said the population drops may be attributed to the trial areas being stigmatised.
The report comes as crossbench senators plan to travel to the remote communities in the Northern Territory to see how people feel about the government wanting to force them on the cards.
The underpinning legislation passed the lower house on Wednesday and is now ready for the Senate, but Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie wants the government to hold off on the upper house debate.
"I'm intending to travel to the Northern Territory to undertake consultations directly so that I can hear on-the-ground concerns with members," she told the lower house before voting against the bill.
"We want to ensure that there's consultation in the Northern Territory before this bill becomes law and before the card is rolled out further."
Ms Sharkie's colleagues hold two crucial Senate votes.
Their fellow crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie also plans to tour trial sites for the cashless welfare card before deciding if she will support the government's plan to extend it to other areas.
Labor will attempt to change the bill in the Senate so the scheme is voluntary in the Top End.
Some people in the NT are currently on another income management tool which quarantines 50 per cent of welfare payments so it can't be spent on alcohol or drugs.
The cashless welfare card quarantines 80 per cent of payments.