The concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been popping up left and right all around the world lately. Discussions and tests are and will be carried out by countries like Finland, Canada, and Uganda to find out if granting periodic and unconditional cash transfers to every individual in a community could solve that area’s economic problems. These studies, however, remain inconclusive, with some reporting that UBI has a positive effect on a population while others report a negative one.
The latest in a long line of groups trying to uncover a definitive answer to this question is the Economic Security Project (ESP), an eclectic group of people with signatories that include activists, investors, and visionaries. This group has pledged to spend $10 million in the next two years in order to find out if UBI can work in the United States.
This wide-ranging project would involve the ESP funding a diverse group of organizations, each with a distinctive question they would like answered regarding the benefits, or lack thereof, of UBI. The Roosevelt Institute, for example, will contribute macroeconomic modeling, behavioral studies, and public opinion research on UBI. Another group, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, aims to find out the feasibility of carbon pricing and dividends to fund UBI.
Poverty is not currently as big of a problem in the U.S. as it is in places like Kenya and Uganda, but a major concern for the U.S. is the encroachment of automation on American workforce. How will those unfortunate enough to have the same skill-set as the robots that could replace them survive once they no longer have jobs?
It’s a concern that worries government officials, financial experts, and scientists, and the UN has even predicted that 75 percent of jobs in developed nations could be lost to automation. As a solution to this potential job loss in the coming years, some have been pushing for UBI, but first the ramifications of such a system must still be studied. If this $10 million investment generates solid evidence one way or the other with regards to UBI, it could give officials a better action plan for humanity as it enters the age of automation.