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What is Universal Basic Income?

Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is a proposed cash transfer initiative that is…

  • Universal: All citizens would receive payments regardless of economic status. Additionally, they would be unconditional, meaning there would be no other limitations, such as work requirements.
  • Basic: The payment amount would be enough to provide basic necessities for individuals or households.
  • Income: The cash payment would be continuous and recurring.

Many proposed UBI structures vary based on the amount and payment intervals. There are also many different proposals for implementing a UBI, whether through existing tax credits, in place of current safety net programs, or as an entirely new program.

The History of UBI

In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for guaranteed income as a solution to widespread poverty, especially among communities of color. UBI received renewed national attention after 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang discussed a Citizen’s Dividend of $1,000 a month for citizens over the age of 18. Read this article for more information on the history of UBI.

The Difference Between UBI and Guaranteed Income
Guaranteed Income (GI) would provide cash payments to certain populations, such as those below a certain income level. Meanwhile, universal basic income (UBI) would be provided to everyone. While there is currently a significant debate between proponents of each, some research indicates that the ultimate fiscal and distributional impacts would be similar since many UBI proposals include a “taxing back” of the benefit at higher income levels.

What the Research Says About Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI)

Research from several decades of global UBI any GI pilots indicates positive outcomes such as (Hasdell, 2020):

  • An overall decrease in poverty
  • Little to no effect on the labor market
  • Improved school enrollment and attendance among children
  • Improved physical and mental wellbeing

Implementations of GBI

There are many UBI or GI pilots nationwide. Our lab maintains a database of current and recent US-based pilots. Also, the Stanford Basic Income Lab provides a map that shows the scope of the pilots.

How the Family Economic Policy Lab is Involved

The Family Economic Polic Lab assists in designing and evaluating multiple large guaranteed income pilots in the US. Please see our projects page to learn more. The lab also participates in education efforts and other research related to UBI that can be viewed in our publications listings.