Study participants will get $1,400 per month so researchers can see how guaranteed income affects people’s lives

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How could life be different if everyone was provided a base salary from the government each month? That is the central question German researchers will be looking at over the next three years with a revolutionary study starting this week.

Known as the Basic Income Pilot Project, the study will look at 120 subjects who are given 1,200 Euros (about $1,400) each month for a total of three years. That group will be compared with another group of 1,380 people who will not receive monthly cash payments.

German researcher Jürgen Schupp, a professor of sociology at the Free University of Berlin and a senior research fellow at the Socio-Economic Panel, hopes to see how a standard income affects people’s lives.

“Happiness research has long since proven that more money increases well-being,” Schupp told German news magazine Der Spiegel. “But we want to find out much more: To what extent does such a reliable, unconditional flow of money affect people’s attitudes and behavior in relevant areas of life? How do, for example, professional life, daily structure, commitment, diet or relationships change?”

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The idea of a universal basic income for every citizen has been debated for years. Supporters of the concept think a basic income guarantee would help to reduce the burden and perhaps even eventually eliminate entitlement programs such as welfare.

Recently, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang brought universal basic income into the spotlight. An explanation on his website calls the idea “a foundation on which a stable, prosperous and just society can be built.”

Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw universal basic income as a way to pull people out of poverty. As part of his Poor People’s Campaign, the civil rights leader organized a march on Washington to support a $30 billion anti-poverty bill that included a basic universal income for all Americans. King was assassinated before his campaign could gain momentum.

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But not everyone supports a universal basic income. Those against the universal basic income believe it will remove people’s incentive to work.

“Work by definition would become optional, and consumption would become an entitlement disconnected from production,” wrote Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. “Stripped of its essential role as the way to earn a living, work would instead be an activity one engaged in by choice, for enjoyment, or to afford nicer things.”

Other arguments against a universal basic income include the cost of implementing such a program, which is estimated to be almost $4 trillion a year. Also, there is a question of equality with income payments. Should wealthy people receive a basic income when they already have a surplus of funds?

Germany’s study is not the first toe in the water of the universal basic income ocean. Canada is conducting its own three-year study on the effectiveness of the concept. Countries such as Finland,  Kenya, Scotland, and Taiwan are also testing out basic income programs.

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In the United States, a universal basic income is not a new concept. In fact, Alaska has been providing its residents one since 1982, from a mining and oil fund. In 2109, each citizen received a check for $1,606.

Stockton, California, began an 18-month pilot program of giving $500 to 125 local families to reduce the use of payday lenders,  visits to pawn shops and gang involvement. As of October, around half of recipients were still working and only 2% were not actively looking for work (some recipients are retirees). Some reported that the income let them quit or reduce hours at third and second jobs.

The future of a universal basic income remains uncertain. But, with the current studies in Germany and other countries, researchers hope to find ways to bridge the economic equity gap as the employment landscape continues to change during the pandemic.

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Marie Rossiter
Marie Rossiter

Wife, Mom of 21 yo and 17 yo young women. Freelance Writer. Disney World Geek. Going after a 200-lb weight loss. Training for my first half marathon in 2020! Learn More.