California latest to pilot universal basic income

Oct 3, 2019


By Lyndsey Hall

Following in the footsteps of Finland and Canada, Stockton, California has become the first US city to trial a basic income for its residents.

Once known as the foreclosure capital of the country, as well as for one of the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcies, Stockton is now running a pilot scheme involving 125 participants, each of whom will receive $500 per month for a year and a half. The scheme is privately funded and will cost roughly $1.1 million over the 18 month period.

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration is part funded by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes’ non-profit, The Economic Security Project. The pilot began in January 2019 and will run until July 2020, with data being released from Autumn 2019 onwards.

The participants comprise of a random sampling of low income workers and unemployed individuals, who earn at or below the median household income of $46,033. They receive the $500 on a debit card on the 15th of each month, with no stipulations on how it should be spent or whether they can or cannot earn money in other ways during the pilot scheme.

The concept of a universal basic income dates back to at least the 18th Century, and has been thrown around the political arena in many countries in recent years, with some even launching their own pilot schemes, and many planning to in the near future. In America, the idea gained new life thanks to the 2020 presidential race, with one candidate, Andrew Yang, proposing to give $1,000 in cash to every American as a method of protecting the population from the impact of certain job losses caused by automation and artificial intelligence. Another contender, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, has proposed to give $500 a month to working families.

The Stockton experiment is spearheaded by the city’s new 29-year-old, Democratic mayor, Michael Tubbs. When asked about his reasons for implementing the scheme, Tubbs said: “I think poverty is immoral, I think it is antiquated and I think it shouldn’t exist.”


What are your thoughts on a universal basic income as a way to combat unemployment? Do the experiments in Finland, Canada and the US give you confidence that a basic income could work in the UK? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter and Linkedin.


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