Giving Compass' Take:

• Ugo Gentilini discusses the shortcomings of basic income experiments and what a trust test of universal basic income would need to include. 

• How can funders help to support research into universal basic income? 

• Read about research that suggests that universal basic income may not help low-income people

I had the privilege of attending the annual conference of the Basic Income Earth Network. The humbling experience had no shortage of people who have worked on, thought of, and advocated for universal basic income (UBI) for over 30 years.

There are plenty of ongoing trials around the globe, but each seems to miss at least one key feature of UBI, if not most of its defining elements. A UBI consists of the provision of cash, paid every month, for an amount that at least closes the poverty gap, provided by the state with no strings attached, and evenly distributed to everyone in a polity.

And yet, from Finland to the Netherlands, from the United States to Canada, current experiments seem variants of traditional interventions, including targeting particular profiles of people (e.g., the "unemployed"), in most cases through means-testing and for specific age cohorts. They may look and smell like a UBI, but they aren’t.

These trials may enhance our understanding of important micro-questions, but they will not propel us forward decidedly on core, big-ticket quandaries. Trials may not fully inform about how to situate UBI in the social protection landscape — which schemes should it replace, which not, why, and how to do so. We need to know about its effects on social services, fiscal space, tax regimes, inflation, firms, pensions, minimum wage, and the harder-to-quantify overall social contract. For pilots to be compelling, they should be large-enough in scale and scope to affect such systemic issues. But if that is too far-fetched, small-scale trials should at least be designed as a pure UBI.

Read the full article about trying to set up a better Universal Basic Income pilot program by Ugo Gentilini at Brookings.