A Rural County's New Universal Basic Income Experiment – and the Case Against It

Amid worries that technological advances may someday eliminate jobs, the Associated Press reports on a new experimental universal basic income program in upstate New York:

During the pilot program, funded by private donations, 100 county residents making less than $46,900 annually will get $500 a month for a year. The income threshold was based on 80% of the county’s average median income, meaning it includes both the poor and a slice of the middle class — people who face financial stress but might not ordinarily qualify for government aid based on income.

For researchers, the pilot could give them a fuller picture of what happens when a range of people are sent payments that guarantee a basic living… Basic income programs elsewhere tend to focus on cities. In contrast, this upstate program stretches out over a mix of places: a city, small towns and remote areas many miles from bus lines and supermarkets. “Showing that this approach will work not just in urban areas, but for rural parts of the country — which we know is one of our big national problems — I think there’s great opportunity there,” said Ulster County Executive Patrick Ryan… Center for Guaranteed Income Research co-founder Stacia West, who is evaluating more than 20 such pilot programs, is interested in seeing how spending compares to cities like Stockton, California, where more that a third went for food. “Knowing what we know about barriers to employment, especially in rural areas, we may see more money going toward transportation than we’ve ever seen before in any other experiment,” said West, also a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work…

The end goal for a number of advocates is a universal basic income, or UBI, which would distribute cash payment programs for all adults… Critics of cash transfer programs worry about their effectiveness and cost compared to aid programs that target funds for food, shelter or for help raising children. Drake University economics professor Heath Henderson is concerned the programs miss needier people less likely to apply, including those without homes. While there are times people might benefit from a cash infusion, the money is unlikely to address the structural issues holding people back, like inadequate health care and schools, he said.

“If we keep thinking about remedying poverty in terms of just throwing cash at people, you’re not thinking about the structures that kind of reproduce poverty in the first place and you’re not really solving the problem at all,” Henderson said.

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Source: Slashdot – A Rural County’s New Universal Basic Income Experiment – and the Case Against It

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