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What is the Basic Income Lab?

What would people do with free cash? Would they stop working? Would they work more? Would they volunteer more? Under which conditions (if any) can people thrive without a job? Would Basic Income cause inflation? Is it affordable? Which iteration of the Basic Income idea would be most successful? How would Basic Income impact education and health outcomes?

To answer some of these questions, the Basic Income Lab (BIL), located within the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society:
• Promotes research and the study of the development and impact of UBI;
• Convenes scholars, policymakers, business leaders, think tanks, nonprofits, and foundations around the politics and economics of UBI; and,
• Informs policymakers and practitioners about latest best practices.

Why Basic Income?

Increasing poverty, structural unemployment, growing inequalities, automation, and social precariousness are some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and countries around the world today.

In search for solutions, Universal Basic Income (UBI) proponents seek to address these issues with a policy described as a ‘disarmingly simple idea’: give every individual cash on a reoccurring basis, no strings attached.

Within this context, there is an increasing need for in-depth academic research on how to design, implement and evaluate UBI; what UBI’s potential impacts could be; and, how feasible it would be to implement. To do this, the BIL aims to assess the philosophical and political underpinnings of unconditional cash transfers; understand the political and economic feasibility of various proposals; and comprehend the strengths and weaknesses of Basic Income as a measure to alleviate poverty, precariousness and inequalities.

Why Here?

In Silicon Valley, and increasingly in the United States, many individuals have expressed their support for Universal Basic Income, viewing it as providing a safety net for those who are already marginalized from the labor market as well as those who, because of increasing automation, may be displaced in the future. Y Combinator Research went further and set aside millions of dollars to experiment with unconditional cash among low-income households. Stanford, nestled in the heart of the bay area, excels in both engineering and the social sciences, providing BIL access to experts across disciplines to make contributions to UBI research.

Why Now?

In 2016, the policy proposal for Universal Basic Income grew more favorable in the United States. In that year alone, Martin Ford (author of Rise of the Robots), Robert B. Reich (former Secretary of Labor), and Andrew Stern (former President of the SEIU), among others all published books putting forward a Universal Basic Income as an innovative and essential policy tool for confronting economic insecurity. Since then, dozens of other books and research articles have been written and basic income pilots have sprung up throughout the United States and around the world.

The time is ripe for an independent initiative that serves to:

  • Stimulate research on UBI
  • Inform those developing UBI policies and carrying out experiments
  • Aggregate and disseminate research findings
  • Convene scholars, policy makers, business leaders, think tanks, nonprofits, and foundations around the politics and economics of UBI