Moving forward on basic income

oak1-e1464725048781This article talks about Y Combinator‘s Basic Income Project, an attempt to understand if and how basic income works in the US. The idea is to give a basic income (an amount of money that is sufficient to meet basic needs) to a group of people in the US for a period of time and try to answer a few key issues: if there are links between basic income and people’s happiness, well-being, financial health and how people spend their time.

The Research Director of Basic Income Project is Elizabeth Rhodes: she recently completed a PhD in Social Work and Political Science at the University of Michigan where she studied health and education provision in slum communities in Nairobi.

Anyway, before running a large long-term study, the researchers decided to start with a short-term pilot in Oakland. In order to be prepared for the longer-term study, it is therefore necessary to understand the methods i.e. how to pay people, how to collect data, how to randomly choose a sample, etc.

According to Y Combinator’s vision, Oakland is a great city to do this because it is a place with social and economic diversity and there are both targeted wealth and widespread inequality. Oakland is also very close to where they live: it is an advantage because researchers are closer to the treated. Researchers also think that local resources and relationships will help them in terms of effectiveness of the study. In addition, in the past, Oakland was the field of other famous scientific investigations: in 1973 Aaron Wildavsky and Jeffrey L. Pressman wrote the book Implementation about an unsatisfactory implementation process of a federal policy in Oakland.

Coming back to the study, they have decided that the income is unconditional: according to the researchers, basic income promotes freedom, so they want to see how people treated will experience that freedom. They are free to use basic income how they want: it is permitted to be a volunteer, to be an unemployed, to work, to move to another country or anything.

It is obvious that, if the pilot goes well, they follow up with the larger study, if it doesn’t go properly, the researchers will consider different action plans.

According to YC’s researchers, in the future technological improvements should generate an abundance of resources and the cost of living should fall considerably. Although basic income seems fiscally challenging today, in a future without a steady job, it could become necessary. The researchers hope a minimum level of economic security that will give people the liberty to pursue their own aims such as improve their education, create a better job, plan the future without anxiety and fear of the future. The question is. “When you have a little more freedom and you have more security, what opportunities does that create?”

This study will be very important because we have some examples of something close to a basic income in other countries, but it interesting to see how it would work in the US.


Il primo studio sul reddito minimo negli USA sarà portato avanti da Y Combinator e Elizabeth Rhodes nella città di Oakland. Nelle intenzioni dei promotori, questo studio pilota dovrà essere l’inizio di un lavoro di ricerca più ampio e più diffuso nel paese. L’importanza di questo progetto risiede nel fatto che ci sono già esempi di reddito minimo in altri paesi ma questa è la prima volta che si cerca di capire se e come questo possa funzionare negli USA.