First Results From Stockton’s Universal Basic Income Experiment

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
October 03, 2019 - 4:12 pm
Stockton, CA where Mayor Michael Tubbs has launched a groundbreaking income experiment

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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(KCBS Radio) – The first data from Stockton’s groundbreaking universal basic income experiment is out, and shows that participants largely spent the money on expenses such as food, clothing and utility bills.

The 18-month program started in February and the early data tracks participants’ spending from February through the end of July.

The 125 participants were randomly selected from Stockton neighborhoods where the annual median income is below the city’s average. They each received a debit card that is loaded with $500 each month.

It is one of the few experiments testing the concept of "universal basic income," an old idea that is getting renewed interest from Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur who has surprised pundits with his staying power in the race, has made a $1,000 “freedom dividend” the foundation of his platform.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs hopes the data will win over skeptics who think people will either waste the money or become lazy as a result. He is also encouraging state lawmakers to adopt the program statewide.

But critics like Matt Zwolinski, director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Ethics, Economics and Public Policy at the University of San Diego, say the experiment’s limited population group and short duration will not provide enough data to prove that these types of policies are effective.