Essentials First

Basic Income Recipients Spent the Money on “Literal Necessities”

Most of the money went toward food, utility bills, and even donations.

10. 4. 19 by Natalie Coleman
Images via Pixabay/Victor Tangermann
Image by Images via Pixabay/Victor Tangermann

A popular argument levied by opponents of universal basic income (UBI) — an unconditional, periodic payment given to all members of a society — is that recipients will use the money on frivolous purchases.

But the first data is finally trickling in from a UBI experiment in Stockton, California — and it seems most of the 125 people in the program used the $500 they received each month for food, utility bills, and clothing.

A new Associated Press story breaks down the spending: recipients spent about 40 percent of the funds on food, 24 percent on sales and merchandise, and 11 percent on utility bills. They spent the remainder on car maintenance, medical expenses, insurance, education, self care, and even donations.

One recipient, Zhona Everett, 48, told the AP that she and her husband — a truck driver — each earned barely $100 a day.


Before the UBI program, they were struggling to make ends meet and were late on their bills — but after they began receiving the UBI, Everett set up automatic payments for the couple’s monthly utilities, paid off some outstanding purchases, and even donated a bit of money to her church.

“I think people should have more of an open mind about what the program is about and shouldn’t be so critical about it,” she told the AP.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is hopeful the new data will help “win over” skeptics of UBI — and potentially convince lawmakers to take the program nationwide.

“In this country we have an issue with associating people who are struggling economically and people of color with vices like drug use, alcohol use, gambling,” Tubbs told the AP. “I thought it was important to illustrate folks aren’t using this money for things like that. They are using it for literal necessities.”


READ MORE: $500 a month for free: Data shows how people spent the money [The Associated Press]

Read more on UBI: Study: Universal Basic Income Won’t Make People Work Less

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