An ambitious basic income experiment started by a major Silicon Valley tech accelerator has been delayed

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  • Y Combinator’s plan to provide basic income to a group of people for five years has been delayed after a pilot program took longer than expected.
  • Now, Y Combinator hopes to start its study by mid-2019, and it has partnered with the University of Michigan to oversee the process.
  • 1,000 participants will receive $US1,000 a month while the rest will be part of a control group.
  • Participants will receive the monthly payments for either three or five years.

In 2016, Y Combinator – the largest startup accelerator in Silicon Valley – announcedthat it would lead an ambitious study of basic income. President Sam Altman hoped to provide money to participants for five years after an initial pilot study.

But the pilot program in Oakland, California, has taken a lot longer than anticipated, and YC Research – Y Combinator’s nonprofit research lab – delayed the start of the larger study until next year,Wired reported.

“Although it’s frustrating for funders, it has been good from a research standpoint,” Elizabeth Rhodes, the study’s research director, wrote in an email to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, according to Wired.

Basic income is a system in which everyone receives money (often from the government) on a regular basis regardless of income. Altman wrote in a blog post at the time that providing people with basic income can promote equality of opportunity and help eliminate poverty.

The Oakland pilot was delayed because Y Combinator needed to make sure participants did not lose any benefits they were already receiving in California, among other reasons.

Y Combinator’s pilot also did not reach the intended number of people. Altman initially laid out plans for giving $US1,500 a month to 100 families. As of now, however, fewer than 30 people have enrolled. While six people got $US1,500 per month in a feasibility study, pilot participants currently receive only $US50 each month.

The long-term study, which is expected to begin by mid-2019, will include 3,000 participants from two states. Earlier this year, Y Combinator signed a contract with the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center to help oversee the study, according to Wired. The locations have not yet been determined, though Oakland will not be part of the study.

One-third of the participants will receive $US1,000 a month while the rest will get $US50 a month as part of a control group. Participants will receive the monthly payments for either three or five years.

Michigan’s Survey Research Center will also gather information for a different basic income program, which will give an unconditional $US333 a month to 500 low-income mothers. Another 500 new mothers will get $US20 a month, and all the participants will be selected from hospitals in four cities.

Basic income experiments have been growing in popularity around the world as more people express concerns over an increase in automation leading to job loss.

Beyond Altman, several tech executives in Silicon Valley have voiced support for basic income, including Mark Zuckerberg, whoadvocatedfor the system during a Harvard commencement speech last year. Critics, meanwhile, say basic income programs could create a society without motivation and cause recipients to stop working.

Some of the most prominent basic income experiments have been short-lived. In Finland, officials announced that a two-year pilot program giving basic income to 2,000 people will end in January 2019. Finland’s program will run for the intended two years, but the government denied a request for additional funding from the country’s social security agency.

And in Ontario, Canada, the provincial government ended a three-year pilot two years early. About 4,000 people were receiving a monthly basic income, and many recipients said they were shocked after Premier Doug Ford broke his promise to continue the program.

A pilot in Stockton, California, has made more progress, with plans to kick off an 18-month trialin February 2019. The program will provide 100 residents with $US500 per month.

According to Wired, Y Combinator won’t begin its study until it secures enough funding. The incubator is reaching out to national foundations and local philanthropists to fund the estimated $US60 million cost. The majority of the money is expected to go toward monthly payments to recipients.

The cash will be given unconditionally, and Rhodes told Wired that relying on private funding will allow Y Combinator to maintain a separation from political influence.

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