Universal Basic Income did not have the banner year it’s proponents had hoped for.
Getting people on board with basic income requires data, which is what numerous tests have been trying to obtain. But this year, a number of experiments were cut short, delayed, or ended after a short time. That also means the possible data supply got cut off.
Back in June we declared, “Basic income could work—if you do it Canada style.” We talked to the people on the ground getting the checks in Ontario’s 4,000-person test and saw how it was changing the community. Then, just two months later, it was announced that the program is ending in the new year rather than running for three years. The last checks will be delivered to participants in March 2019.
We’ve been waiting for basic-income data for a while. In 2016, MIT Technology Review predicted that “in 2017, we will find out if basic income makes sense.” There were two main tests we were waiting on. First there was Finland’s promising basic-income program, which received a lot of hype when it was launched in 2017. Then, in 2018, it was revealed that the program would not yet be extended beyond its original trial period. Another experiment, from tech incubator Y Combinator, has also faced more delays, pushing the experiment into 2019.
That isn’t to say all tests of universal basic income have collapsed. In North America alone there are two programs that have been functioning for more than 20 years. Spain and Kenya also have their own high-profile tests under way. But the problems that plagued the Ontario, Finland, and Y Combinator programs illustrate the issues that basic-income programs constantly face.
A team of independent researchers randomly selected 1,200 households where the median income is at or below $46,000. From the group, 100 will be selected to receive $500 a month for 18 months. But the response has been slow.
“We’re looking for at least half of the folks who have received the letter to respond back because it gives the evaluators a chance to select the 100 people from that group,” said Tubbs.
SEED is looking to study how an extra $500 will impact people’s health and stress level. They are looking to see if people feel financially secure.
Researchers hope people interested will respond by December 23. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board.
“If half the people don’t respond, our research team, our evaluators will find a way to make sure we get a sample size that is representative of the city,” said Tubbs.
If push comes to shove, leaders with SEED will likely send more letters out. For now, researchers are hoping to get enough responses to reflect the number of letters sent out to people.
Who knew it would be so hard to get people to take free money? UBI the concept isn’t new of course, with experiments having been tried in the US as far back as the 60’s. But for now, Universal Basic Income is still trying to find the universal part of the idea, at least in acceptance.