Announcing the Basic Income Video Contest

Almost half of all Americans can’t find $400 for an unexpected expense, according to the Federal Reserve [1]. Thirty percent--73 million people--either find it difficult to get by or are just getting by financially. Millions of Americans’ lives could be transformed by a basic income, but what would people actually do with some extra cash?

We are researchers, not advocates. While we plan to answer this question systematically by launching the U.S.’s first-ever, large-scale study of basic income, we want to hear from people in their own words about how they think their lives might change. In designing the study we have tried to think through all of the ways the money could affect recipients, but there are inevitably pathways of impact that we have not thought about. 

So we're reaching out to people from all walks of life to help us identify things we might be missing. We hit the streets in our neighborhood to ask this question, and were amazed by the diversity of answers.

Take a look:

Now we want to hear from you. What would you do with an extra $1000 guaranteed to you for every month, for the rest of your life, and why? 

To participate, shoot a 30-60 second video telling us what you would do with an extra $1000 cash per month, use the hashtag #mybasicincome, and submit it here via our google form. To encourage submissions, three entrants will be randomly selected to win $1000 cash to spend with no strings attached, and we’ll post our favorites online. 

Submissions are due January 15, 2018 and we will announce the winners two weeks later.

Thank you in advance for helping us design the study; we look forward to sharing our findings. 

Click here to submit your video, and please see the OFFICIAL RULES

Exciting News in Stockton, California

At Y Combinator Research, we believe in studying bold ideas that don’t necessarily make sense to test out as start-ups. That’s why last month we announced our proposal to conduct a large-scale randomized controlled trial to study basic income.

We hope that our study will add some data to the debate about basic income, giving us a better idea of how basic income will actually affect individuals.

At the same time, we view our study as just one piece of a broader research agenda on basic income. To build a holistic, data-driven understanding of the effects basic income, we’ll need to compare outcomes in our study to outcomes in other pilots and research projects.

That is why we were excited to learn from our friends at the Economic Security Project about a new effort to explore basic income right here in California.

On Wednesday, Stockton, CA, Mayor Michael Tubbs and the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition announced the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). SEED is the first-ever municipal-level pilot program to evaluate how an guaranteed income of $500 per month can improve economic security and the well-being of city residents in the U.S.

Located in the Central Valley, Stockton has a had a rocky recent history. One in four residents lives below the poverty line, the unemployment rate of 7.3% towers the national a rate of 4.2%, and 18% of residents experience food insecurity despite Stockton’s status as an agricultural hub.

Stockton’s new mayor, Michael Tubbs, hopes to turn this around by testing innovative social policy. The Stockton pilot is a major step in that direction--an effort to tackle poverty and invest directly in Stocktonians, while helping us and others learn more about how basic income would work in the U.S. today.

We look forward to learning more about the design and evaluation of this pilot. 

Basic Income Research Proposal

For the past year, we’ve been putting together the best possible research plan to study the effects of a basic income in the US. Today, we’re excited to share updates on our progress and the proposed design for a larger-scale study.

First, we just wrapped up a one-year feasibility study in Oakland. We conducted the feasibility study to learn what challenges we would face when seeking to conduct a large, high quality study. We also sought to get a glimpse of the effects of basic income, even though the feasibility study was too small to reveal any trends or predict outcomes with any statistical significance.

Second, we’ve established partnerships with a number of individuals and organizations to help advance the project. We brought on leading researchers to be co-investigators and a growing team of experts to serve as advisors. We’ve partnered with the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality and received approval from Stanford’s Institutional Review Board, a panel responsible for the protection of human participants in research.

Third, after considering many potential designs, we decided that the core of the Basic Income Project will be a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT). You can read more about the details of our proposed study and our research questions here.

A randomized trial is considered one of the best ways to evaluate the impact of a proposed social policy. By comparing a group of people who receive a basic income to an otherwise identical group of people who do not, we can isolate and quantify the effects of a basic income.

Of course, no single study can answer all questions about basic income, and every program has an array of positive and negative effects. Nonetheless, we view this experiment as a strong foundation for a broad research agenda on basic income.

We tentatively plan to randomly select 3,000 individuals across two US states to participate in the study: 1,000 will receive $1,000 per month for up to 5 years, and 2,000 will receive $50 per month and serve as a control group for comparison.

We are working with government agencies to access administrative data for consenting individuals. We’ll also conduct extensive surveys with participants at the start and end of the project.

Analyzing data on individuals’ time use and finances, indicators of mental and physical health, and effects on children and social networks will help us learn how this basic level of income security helps people cope—and possibly thrive—amid economic volatility and uncertainty.

We also plan to conduct qualitative research with a subsample of participants. Through in-depth interviews, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of how a basic income influences people’s lives. Documenting individuals’ experiences, decision-making processes, and the constraints they face will help us create solutions, even apart from basic income, that may be more effective.

At the study’s conclusion, we hope to answer our fundamental questions about basic income, advancing the debate about social spending and the future of work.

Our next steps are to continue soliciting feedback on our proposed research design and to scale up the second phase of the feasibility study. We’ll adjust the design based on the feedback and feasibility study before launching the large-scale RCT.

We’ll also continue to work with state and local governments and social service agencies to ensure that the basic income payments do not affect participants’ existing benefits.

We look forward to sharing more news about our progress in the coming months.