Universal Basic Income Trials around the world
The Bob Pritchard Column
Universal basic income, a system in which everyone regularly receives a check from the government regardless of income, has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Basic income is being considered as a partial solution to the loss of jobs caused by robots and AI.
In Chicago, a bill has been proposed to provide 1,000 families with $500 a month in a pilot that would make Chicago the largest US city to try a basic income program. The bill was introduced because of concern that automation could leave millions of people without jobs. Beyond Chicago, a number of cities and countries around the world are running their own experiments.
Many economists and tech experts say they support basic income because it could keep people from poverty as they look for new jobs. A number of big names in Silicon Valley have voiced support for universal basic income as well. Mark Zuckerberg, for example, advocated for the system during his commencement speech at Harvard last year.
Critics of basic income, meanwhile, say such programs would cause people to stop working and create a society that lacks motivation. Here are some of the biggest experiments:
Alaska residents receive up to $2,000 each year. Each year, eligible Alaskans receive a check of up to $2,000 as part of the Permanent Fund Dividend. The program was established in 1982 and is financed by the state’s oil wealth. Anyone who has lived in Alaska for a full year is eligible to receive the funds as long as they have not committed a felony or misdemeanor that year.
A 2017 survey from The Economic Security Project shows that 81% of Alaskan residents believe a cash transfer program run by the state makes a positive difference in their quality of life.
Stockton, California is launching the first universal basic income experiment in an American city. The city plans to give $500 a month to some of Stockton’s low-income residents. The trial is expected to last 18 months.
Y Combinator aims to provide basic income to 3,000 Americans. YC will choose 3,000 people from two states and split them into two groups. One-third of the participants will be put in a group that receives $1,000 a month for up to five years. The remaining 2,000 people will be treated as the control group and receive $50 per month.
Thousands of people in western Kenya receive $22 per month. The charity GiveDirectly is providing 16,000 residents in forty villages with a universal basic income for 12 years. GiveDirectly provides each resident who had lived in the village for at least one year about $22 per month. For many of the recipients, that meant their income was doubled. Another 40 villages are receiving the same amount for only two years. In addition, 80 villages received a lump sum equal to the two-year amount, and 100 villages that are acting as the control variable received no money.
More than a year after the study launched, GiveDirectly said it believes the UBI is reducing poverty.
The Canadian government launched a three-year basic income pilot in Ontario to test whether a basic income can improve education and health outcomes for low-income individuals. About 4,000 people across three test locations were selected for the pilot. To be eligible, residents had to be living in one of the three areas for a full year leading up to the pilot. Only low-income residents between the ages of 18 and 64 were considered.
One person could receive up to $16,989 per year, minus half of any earned income. Couples could earn up to $24,027 each year, minus half of any income they earned, and anyone with a disability could receive an extra $6,000.
Finland is now ending its two-year basic income trial. The two-year pilot program is set to end in January 2019. Finland pays 560 euros (about 680 dollars) per month to a random sample of 2,000 unemployed people. Recipients keep receiving the monthly amount even if they got a job during the trial. The country’s social security agency has refused to release any data until after the pilot ends, citing privacy reasons and a desire to avoid bias.
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