Universal Basic Income: What's in a Name?

Sarah Berger Gonzalez & Juliana Bidadanure // Published August 2020

With increasing calls for a Universal Basic Income and a rise in experiments, a variety of names have been given to or associated with the proposal, including Guaranteed Income, Freedom Dividend, and Unconditional Basic Income. This paper examines what names can be given to the proposal and pilots and whether a single name across programs is needed to develop the proposal into an implementable policy. The question, What’s in a name? generates a far from straightforward answer. A multi-disciplinary approach, though, reveals a variety of important parameters for consideration. Moreover, the variety of values called upon by experimenters to name pilots is an asset to the growing movement, since it attests to the richness of the deep commitments (e.g., equity, dignity, respect, trust and abundance) underpinning UBI.

While recognizing this richness, however, this paper cautions about the use of too many names to refer to UBI at the policy level, pointing out that doing so creates significant definitional ambiguities about key features of the policy (notably its universal, individual and unconditional features). Employing a single name to refer to the proposal could be critical for advancing the policy at the national and international level.