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Stanford forum explores promises, pitfalls of basic income

Nov 10 2021

As federal lawmakers grapple with the future of the country’s safety net, one idea that isn’t on their table is gaining traction in communities across the United States: basic income. More than two dozen cities — most recently Los Angeles and Chicago — are exploring programs to pay low-income residents a recurring stipend even if they don’t have a job.

Related proposals have carried various policy twists, including paying all adults a fixed amount regardless of their financial need.

The controversial ideas were recently debated as part of a Stanford conference. Mark Duggan, the Trione Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), squared off against Andrew Yang, whose call for a universal basic income was the cornerstone of his failed 2020 presidential bid.

Duggan’s overall point: Wealth and income inequality is a massive problem that needs to be addressed by a range of targeted programs and policies. Yang’s idea of doling out $1,000 a month to every U.S. adult is simple and de-stigmatizing, he said, but would require bartering with other benefits to support the exorbitant cost.

“We don’t have $3.1 trillion sitting around waiting to be deployed,” said Duggan, who is also the Wayne and Jodi Cooperman Professor of Economics. Also participating in the discussion was Darrick Hamilton, an economist at The New School in New York City and a proponent of guaranteed income and job policies that target select groups. Juliana Bidadanure, as assistant professor of philosophy and faculty director of the Stanford Basic Income Lab, moderated the session.

Click here to watch a video recording of the discussion. The exchange was part of the annual conference held virtually by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI).

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