A basic income policy would guarantee everyone in a defined geographic area a minimum amount of income. This money would be unconditional, and recipients could spend it to meet their particular needs. In the U.S. context, some advocates recommend a basic income roughly equal to the poverty line (about $12,000 for an individual per year).
A number of other research groups are studying the effects of unconditional cash transfers. You can read more about those efforts here:
- Kela Basic Income Study, Finland
- Ontario Study, Canada
- Income and the Developing Brain During the First Three Years of Life, USA
- GiveDirectly, Kenya and Uganda
- Netherlands Social Assistance Experiments, The Netherlands
- Unconditional Basic Income: Two pilots in Madhya Pradesh, India
Current research on unconditional cash transfers suggests that people spend the money wisely. In general, we don’t expect people to quit their jobs since $12,000 per year is not enough for a comfortable lifestyle. However, it’s possible people could spend more time searching for a job matching their skills and interests, quit their job to start their own company, or spend less time in the formal labor market and more time caring for children or an elder. We are also interested in how participants will spend their time; time use is one of our primary outcome measures.
We plan to conduct a randomized controlled trial to examine the effects of basic income at the individual level. We intend to enroll participants distributed across two states. Roughly a third will be in the treatment group and receive a basic income of $1,000 per month for three years. The other two-thirds will be the control group and receive $50 per month. Both groups will receive small monetary incentives to complete surveys. We’ll measure a wide variety of outcomes using surveys and administrative data.
We will measure the effects of a basic income on a low to lower-middle income individuals. Our primary outcomes are: (1) time use (including work and employment); (2) expenditures, consumption, and financial health; and (3) mental and physical health. We’ll explore several secondary outcomes, including time and risk preferences, social and political attitudes and behavior, effects on children’s educational outcomes, cognitive function, and spillover effects for members of recipients’ household and social network.