By Saira Bajwa, Solutions Specialist
Once considered a radical experiment, Universal Basic Income (UBI) is now under consideration in several countries across the globe. The pandemic and increasing workplace automation are two of the main drivers of debate over this poverty alleviation strategy. Most UBI initiatives distribute cash payments. Pilot programs have been launched by local governments and nonprofit organizations to address and reduce systemic inequities. Andrew Yang, former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, even centered his campaign on it, saying on CBS’s Face the Nation, "Americans will work even harder when they’re given the resources to get ahead.”
Since then, the United States has seen powerful evidence that cash payments do work to alleviate poverty. Federal relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic provided Americans with $1,200 each in addition to $600 a week for unemployment benefits. Even as the economy came to a standstill, the cash transfers reduced poverty rates from 10.9 percent in January to 8.6 percent in April and May.
This collection explores worldwide UBI programs that can inform American communities.
1. What effects did the Canadian New Leaf Project notice after giving homeless citizens $7500?
2. What are the common objections to programs like UBI compared to more typical forms of American social services/financial assistance?
3. UBI has been proposed as a solution to various threats to social wellbeing from both the past and the future - what are they?
4. Which of SJN's Success Factors is best represented in this collection of stories on UBI? Explain your answer.
5. Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment
Article summaries and themes
• Robert Samuels reported on single mothers in Jackson, Mississippi who were able to consider classes and higher education, in addition to avoiding predatory loans and paying off debts after receiving $1,000 a month - with no stipulations on how that money should be spent.
• Economist Adriana Lleras-Muney takes a look back at an American cash-based welfare program from 1911, "The Mother's Pension Program" which resulted in children who went on to be healthier, more educated and higher-earning adults.
• Bridgette Watson reported on how Canadians experiencing homelessness defied stereotypes by using a $7,500 grant to find housing, pay for food, and spend fewer days living on the streets.
• Jon Henley described the Finnish government’s experiment with basic income revealed mental and emotional benefits associated with receiving a small monthly income.
1. Cash recipients spent fewer days homeless compared to citizens in the control group, moved into stable housing after an average of three months (two months sooner than the control group), achieved greater food security, and saved around $1,000, demonstrating strong financial management.
2. Critics of UBI argue that such programs would add billions of dollars to the deficit while providing too little oversight of recipients, leading to abuse of the system.
3. Activists involved in the Movement for Black Lives have advocated for UBI as a form of reparations for African-Americans living with the legacy of slavery. Researchers and philanthropists in multiple countries have also proposed UBI as a solution to the looming employment crisis posed by increasing automation.
4. Answers may vary - "empowering people" is a strong contender, as UBI programs focus on building assets and giving ownership/control to the individuals most in need.
5. Answers will vary.