Next month, like every October, any man, woman, or child who has lived in Alaska for at least a year will receive a dividend check from the Alaska Permanent Fund of the state’s oil revenues. This “no strings attached” payment can amount to $1,000–2,000 a year per person. At around $8,000 a year for a family of four, it’s not a trivial amount.
That makes the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend a real-world example of a Universal Basic Income, or UBI — a regular, unconditional cash transfer for everyone.
The opportunity to learn from a real-world UBI comes as the idea continues to get a lot of attention, but with remarkably little evidence on the impact UBI might have, especially as a long-term and universal program.
We are not yet convinced that UBI is the best possible solution to income security challenges, but we believe it’s an idea that merits testing. As we wrote previously, UBI builds on a rich empirical evidence base that shows cash transfers have remarkable outcomes for people and communities in emerging markets. Research is starting to also show positive impacts in advanced economies like the United States. But there is still much to learn.
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