While arguments go back and forth about the feasibility of universal basic income and its potential merits, there are at least three sets of questions that need to be answered through experiments, said Juliana Bidadanure, founder and faculty director of the Stanford Basic Income Lab.
The first revolves around what people do when they are given unconditional cash. Researchers want to know if recipients might drop out of the labor market and, if so, what they would do with their time. The studies also would look at how people spend the money; whether they save it or use it to purchase goods and services.
The second set of questions concerns the impacts of unconditional cash on health, childhood poverty, well-being, stigma, crime and other important aspects of people's lives. Researchers, for example, want to know if a guaranteed income would affect the number of burglaries and thefts criminals are committing or if it would change the recidivism rate among ex-felons. Existing welfare programs also carry with them the stigma of recipients being "scroungers," Bidadanure said. By being universal, basic income theoretically would help eliminate the stigma and perhaps reduce demonization of certain classes of people, but researchers would need to determine if those outcomes would actually come to pass.
The third group of questions revolves around whether universal basic income would be politically and economically feasible, an area of wide debate.
The Stanford Basic Income Lab, a clearinghouse for research on universal basic income, is working to answer these questions and to advise groups and municipalities that are considering policies for income programs. It has published "Basic Income In Cities: A guide to city experiments and pilot projects," a toolkit to help policymakers and cities.
The lab also offers a lecture series on basic income that is open to the public. More information is posted at basicincome.stanford.edu.
This article is part of a larger story on universal basic income, which can be found here.