Universal Basic Income

March 6, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 10
Could it offset inequality and job loss?
By Lorna Collier


The now-ended presidential bid by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang brought his cornerstone issue — a universal basic income (UBI) — into mainstream conversation in the United States. Yang argued that a UBI is needed to address income disparity, stagnant wages and job losses from automation. He proposed providing a “freedom dividend” of $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen over 18. Yang is the latest in a long line of politicians, economists and philosophers of various ideological stripes, ranging from Renaissance social philosopher Sir Thomas More to Republican President Richard M. Nixon, who have supported the idea of a guaranteed income. And pilot projects to assess the feasibility and impact of such programs are ongoing or scheduled to start soon across the United States and the globe. Surveys show increased support for universal income, especially among the young, but critics say such programs would bust the budget and discourage people from working. Others warn that if such plans replaced existing safety-net programs, they would end up benefitting the middle class but hurting the poor.

A robot at an Amazon fulfillment center in Orlando (Getty Images/NurPhoto/Paul Hennessy)
A robot at an Amazon fulfillment center in Orlando, Fla., helps fill a shipment last April. Proponents of a universal basic income (UBI) point to the importance of providing a secure living for U.S. citizens facing potential job losses from automation. (Getty Images/NurPhoto/Paul Hennessy)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mar. 06, 2020  Universal Basic Income
Mar. 18, 2016  The Gig Economy
Mar. 06, 2012  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 31, 2009  Straining the Safety Net
Apr. 10, 2009  Business Bankruptcy
Mar. 13, 2009  Vanishing Jobs
Apr. 25, 2003  Unemployment Benefits
Jan. 21, 1994  Worker Retraining
Sep. 09, 1988  Help Wanted: Why Jobs Are Hard to Fill
Mar. 18, 1983  The Youth Unemployment Puzzle
Dec. 24, 1982  Federal Jobs Programs
May 28, 1982  America's Employment Outlook
Jun. 27, 1980  Unemployment Compensation
Oct. 14, 1977  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 11, 1975  Underemployment in America
Dec. 16, 1970  Unemployment in Recessions
Mar. 05, 1965  Unemployment Benefits in Times of Prosperity
Apr. 03, 1964  Overtime Pay Rates and Unemployment
Feb. 01, 1961  Unemployment and New Jobs
Jan. 07, 1959  Lag in Employment
Apr. 16, 1958  Emergency Jobless Aid
May 16, 1956  Lay-Off Pay Plans
Nov. 12, 1953  Jobless Compensation in Boom and Recession
Feb. 25, 1949  Defenses Against Unemployment
Jul. 30, 1945  Full Employment
Nov. 25, 1940  Unemployment Compensation
Jul. 10, 1939  Problem of the Migrant Unemployed
May 19, 1936  Unemployment and Recovery
Sep. 02, 1931  Public Employment Exchanges
Aug. 19, 1929  The Stabilization of Employment
Feb. 21, 1928  The Employment Situation in the United States
Jan. 23, 1926  Unemployment Insurance in the United States
Campaigns and Elections
Congress Actions
Consumer Behavior
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Employment and Labor
General International Relations
General Social Trends
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Social Security
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Welfare and Welfare Reform
Work and the Family