Universal Basic Income is a Proven Success

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Is there any experimental proof that a universal basic income works well in some places? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

I’ve got three chapters in my book Utopia for Realists about several experiments that have happened in the past regarding universal basic income. For example:

In the 1970s the Canadian town of Dauphin trialled a basic income, but due to lack of funding were unable to analyse the results. When researchers looked at the data twenty-five years later, they discovered the experiment had been a huge success: the hospitalization rate went down by 8.5%, kids performed much better in school, domestic violence was down, as were mental health complaints. And the only ones who worked a little less were new mothers and students (who stayed in school longer).

Another example: In 2009, a homelessness charity in London experimented with giving thirteen rough sleepers ‘free money’ on the logic that doing so might be cheaper than the aggregate of police expenses, court costs and social services. They gave each man £3000, no strings attached, and simply asked, ‘What do you think you need?’ Surely they drank the money away and ended up back under a bridge? Not a chance. After a year and a half, seven had a roof over their heads, two were about to move into an apartment, and all had taken steps toward solvency and personal growth. What’s more, this came at a cost of £300,000 less than the alternative. Even The Economist wrote: ‘The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be just to give it to them.’

There have been basic income experiments in the U.S. in the seventies as well, where researchers found that the divorce rate went up by fifty percent. At that point, conservatives became fiercely anti-UBI, because it would make women much too independent. Ten years later, other researchers discovered that a statistical mistake had been made. In reality, the divorce rate did not go up.

What else have we got? There’s a fascinating (natural) experiment in North Carolina (see chapter three of my book), there’s been a big UBI experiment in India (see the work of Guy Standing), and new experiments have started in Finland and Kenya. So far, every single time we’ve experimented with basic income, it’s been a success. I think basic income is a really promising directing of thought and we shouldn’t be afraid to do more (and more ambitious) experiments.

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