Universal Basic Income

September 8, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 31
Would cash payments relieve job losses due to automation?
By Sarah Glazer

Introduction

Samantha Watson, a single mother and nursing student in Parsonsfield, Maine (Cover: Getty Images/Portland Express Herald/Brianna Soukup)
Samantha Watson, a single mother and nursing student in Parsonsfield, Maine, has received benefits from the nation's primary welfare program for low-income families, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Unlike TANF, which requires recipients to prove they are poor enough to qualify, the universal basic income envisioned by some proponents would provide all citizens with a fixed stipend, regardless of income. (Cover: Getty Images/Portland Express Herald/Brianna Soukup)

The prospect of automation replacing workers has helped to revive an old idea: a government check covering basic expenses paid to everyone. Silicon Valley proponents say a guaranteed income — or universal basic income (UBI) — could be crucial in a future with less work to go around. The idea has won enthusiasts among libertarian conservatives who see it as a less bureaucratic alternative to welfare, and liberals who say it could combat inequality and wage stagnation. But UBI supporters on the right and left differ over whether to pay for it by diverting money spent on existing welfare programs or raising taxes. Others dismiss the idea outright, saying it would bust the budget and breed laziness. Still, trial efforts are underway in California, Finland and Canada to investigate whether free cash encourages idleness or, alternatively, boosts education and health — benefits found in 1970s-era American and Canadian experiments and among Alaskans and Native Americans sharing community wealth.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cost of Living and Wages
Sep. 08, 2017  Universal Basic Income
Apr. 08, 2016  Future of the Middle Class
Apr. 18, 2014  Wealth and Inequality
Jan. 24, 2014  Minimum Wage
Jun. 19, 2009  Rethinking Retirement
Mar. 06, 2009  Middle-Class Squeeze
Mar. 14, 2008  Gender Pay Gap
Dec. 16, 2005  Minimum Wage
Sep. 27, 2002  Living-Wage Movement
Apr. 17, 1998  Income Inequality
Oct. 27, 1978  Wage-Price Controls
Jun. 16, 1978  Military Pay and Benefits
Mar. 23, 1966  Rising Cost of Living
Oct. 25, 1961  Price-Wage Restraints in National Emergencies
Jun. 21, 1961  Wage Policy in Recovery
Jun. 11, 1958  Prices and Wages in the Recession
Sep. 18, 1957  Control of Living Costs
Nov. 02, 1955  Wages, Prices, Profits
Jan. 26, 1954  Minimum Wage Raise
Jan. 02, 1954  Cost of Living
Jan. 21, 1953  Guaranteed Annual Wage
Dec. 17, 1952  Future of Price and Wage Controls
Nov. 19, 1951  Fringe Benefits and Wage Stabilization
Dec. 06, 1950  Wage Control
Jun. 13, 1949  Wages in Deflation
Jun. 04, 1947  Guarantees of Wages and Employment
Oct. 29, 1946  Decontrol of Wages
Dec. 01, 1945  Minimum Wages
Sep. 29, 1945  Wage Policy
Oct. 27, 1944  Wage Security
May 17, 1943  Incentive Wage Payments
Aug. 25, 1941  Prices, Profits, and Wage Control
Apr. 28, 1941  Wartime Changes in the Cost of Living
Sep. 21, 1940  Two Years of the Wage-Hour Law
Nov. 01, 1938  Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act
Jan. 20, 1938  Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes
Apr. 11, 1935  The Cost of Living in the United States
Sep. 01, 1930  Wages and the Cost of Living
May 24, 1930  The Anthracite Wage Agreement
Feb. 20, 1925  Measure of Recovery in Profits and Wages Since 1920–21 Depression
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Data and Statistics
Deficit, Federal Debt, and Balanced Budget
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Development
General International Relations
Retirement, Pensions, and Social Security
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Unions and Labor-Management Relations