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. Former President Barack Obama even recently suggested that basic income may be a partial solution to the loss of jobs caused by automation.
In Chicago, alderman Ameya Pawar has proposed a bill to provide 1,000 families with $US500 a month in a pilot that would make Chicago the largest US city to try a basic income program. In an interview with The Intercept, Pawar said he introduced the bill because he is worried 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.
Some 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 $US2,000 each year.
Each year, eligible Alaskans receive a check of up to $US2,000 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 misdemeanour that year.
A 2017 survey from The Economic Security Project, a basic income advocacy group, states that 81% of Alaskan residents believe a cash transfer program run by the state makes a positive difference in their quality of life.
Hundreds of Stockton, California, residents will soon receive $US500 per month.
Stockton, California, which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012, is close to launching the first universal basic income experiment in an American city.
The city made national headlines in October 2017 when officials announced plans to give $US500 a month to some of Stockton’s low-income residents. About 100 families will begin receiving money in early 2019, and the trial is expected to last 18 months.
The $US10 million project has garnered the support of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and more than 100 other big names from Silicon Valley. The experiment is called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, and it will be financed largely through the Economic Security Project. The group has committed $US1 million to launch and help fund the trial.
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs said he supports a progressive approach to social welfare because wages are stagnant and the costs of education and housing are rising.
“I can see the radicalness, but I’m trying to solve the questions that every community has,” he previously told Business Insider.
Y Combinator aims to provide basic income to thousands of Americans.
Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, the largest startup accelerator in Silicon Valley, announced in 2016 that he was interested in leading a study of universal basic income.
As part of the study, 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 $US1,000 a month for up to five years. The remaining 2,000 people will be treated as the control group and receive $US50 per month.
YC previously completed a pilot study in Oakland, California, where a small group received a UBI between $US1,000 and $US2,000. The study aimed to determine whether it would be feasible to implement the system in the entire country.
Thousands of people in western Kenya receive $US22 per month.
At a 2016 community meeting in western Kenya, the charity GiveDirectly announced it would provide dozens of residents in one village with a universal basic income for 12 years.
GiveDirectly provided each resident who had lived in the village for at least one year about $US22 per month. For many of the 95 recipients, that meant their income was doubled.
More than a year after the study launched, GiveDirectly said it believes the UBI is reducing poverty.
The charity expanded its trial last year to include 16,000 people from 120 villages. In November 2017, 40 villages began receiving about $US22 per month, and will continue to get the money for 12 years. 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.
The Canadian government launched a three-year basic income pilot in Ontario.
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 $US16,989 per year, minus half of any earned income. Couples could earn up to $US24,027 each year, minus half of any income they earned, and anyone with a disability could receive an extra $US6,000.
Not all experiments work out. Finland is now ending its two-year basic income trial.
In January 2017, Finland began paying 560 euros (about 680 dollars) per month to a random sample of 2,000 unemployed people.
It was the first basic income trial in Europe to be backed by a national government, and residents were told they would keep receiving thr monthly amount even if they got a job during the trial.
The two-year pilot program is set to end in January, as the government has denied a request for additional funding from Kela, the country’s social security agency.
According to The Economist, Kela refused to release any data until after the pilot ends, citing privacy reasons and a desire to avoid bias. The government, meanwhile, is planning on testing a universal credit system next.
Finland’s pilot was a modified version of universal basic income, giving money to some unemployed residents instead of everyone. As the trial comes to an end, government officials said they will examine other ways to reform Finland’s social security system.
Correction (July 24, 2018): A previous version of this story misstated the anticipated length of a universal basic income experiment in Stockton, California, as well as when disbursements are expected to begin. About 100 families will begin receiving money in early 2019, and the trial is expected to last 18 months.
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