We have a few updates we want to share on our Basic Income Project:  

Our Research Director
Elizabeth Rhodes is joining Basic Income Project as our Research Director. She recently completed a joint PhD in Social Work and Political Science at the University of Michigan, where her research focused on health and education provision in slum communities in Nairobi.   We received over 1000 applications for this position (including tenured professors from Oxford, Columbia, and Harvard), and Elizabeth stood out as the right candidate based on her aptitude and her ambition. We’re very excited to work with her.

Pilot Study in Oakland   We want to run a large, long-term study to answer a few key questions: how people’s happiness, well-being, and financial health are affected by basic income, as well as how people might spend their time. But before we do that, we’re going to start with a short-term pilot in Oakland. Our goal will be to prepare for the longer-term study by working on our methods–how to pay people, how to collect data, how to randomly choose a sample, etc. Oakland is a city of great social and economic diversity, and it has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality. We think these traits make it a very good place to explore how basic income could work for our pilot.  

It’s also close to where we live, which means we’ll be closer to the people involved.  We think our local resources and relationships will help us design and run this study effectively, and we hope that will enable us to produce the best research possible.  

In our pilot, the income will be unconditional; we’re going to give it to participants for the duration of the study, no matter what. People will be able to volunteer, work, not work, move to another country—anything. We hope basic income promotes freedom, and we want to see how people experience that freedom. If the pilot goes well, we plan to follow up with the main study. If the pilot doesn’t go well, we’ll consider different approaches.

And Some Thoughts on how We’re Thinking About Basic Income
We think everyone should have enough money to meet their basic needs—no matter what, especially if there are enough resources to make it possible. We don’t yet know how it should look or how to pay for it, but basic income seems a promising way to do this.  

One reason we think it may work is that technological improvements should generate an abundance of resources. Although basic income seems fiscally challenging today, in a world where technology replaces existing jobs and basic income becomes necessary, technological improvements should generate an abundance of resources and the cost of living should fall dramatically.  

And to be clear: we think of basic income as providing a floor, and we believe people should be able to work and earn as much as they want.  We hope a minimum level of economic security will give people the freedom to pursue further education or training, find or create a better job, and plan for the future. We’ll be spending the next few months designing the pilot, and we welcome any input to help us do the best job possible—especially from the Oakland community. (1)

And again, we hope to follow-up with a long-term study on how people’s happiness, well-being, financial health, and time are affected. If you have thoughts on either, please get in touch at basicincome@ycr.org. -Elizabeth Rhodes, Matt Krisiloff, and Sam Altman

1 – We’ve already been connecting with Oakland city officials and community groups for feedback, but we’re planning to host some public events in Oakland to get more voices involved. Details to come.