Stockton, California, experiments with Universal Basic Income

May 8, 2018

On May 4, Mayor Michael Tubbs (D) of Stockton, California, appeared on the HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss a pilot program he is sponsoring that would give some low-income residents of the city $500 a month—no questions asked.

The program, called Universal Basic Income—which would require the participants to take courses, check in with advisors, and turn their lives around before receiving the money—is one of the first of its kind nationwide; but already has been tried in Finland, with mixed results.

According to CNBC, pilot programs also are underway in Canada and rural Kenya.

And today, fully 48% of Americans support the idea (and 52% oppose it), according to a recent Northeastern University/Gallup survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults.

Indeed, Americans are almost equally split over a hypothetical universal basic income (UBI) program that would guarantee a minimum income for workers who lose their jobs because of advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

However, they are united in their fear of what AI will do to the U.S. job market. The report found 73% of Americans predicting that AI will lead to a loss of more jobs than it creates.

Some U.S. demographic groups are more supportive of the concept than others. More than six in 10 self-described Democrats (65%), as one example, say they would support a UBI program, compared with slightly more than one in four (28%) Republicans.

Additionally, roughly half of most U.S. adult age groups express support. However, support is substantially lower—38%—among Americans aged 66 and older.

While the exact cost of a UBI program in the U.S. depends on the specific details, it is estimated the program could run into the trillions of dollars. U.S. adults who favor a UBI program show mixed support for the idea of financing this type of program through taxes: About 46% say they would be willing to pay higher personal taxes to fund the program and 54% say they would not be.

But for now, Mayor Tubbs is “all in.”  He says, ““I feel that as mayor it’s my responsibility to do all I could to begin figuring out what’s the best way to make sure that folks in our community have a real economic floor.”

Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

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