A universal basic income (UBI) is at the heart of the debate about how society will organize itself after robots and algorithms do more and more of today’s work. Not everyone agrees how we do this.
One side argues, with some evidence, that giving all citizens a minimum stipend that covers basic needs discourages punching our time cards. Jobs also give us more than just money, they offer purpose and social cohesion.
The other argues this model has us all wrong: Humans desire meaningful work, and a basic income allows them to pursue it through better education, time and flexibility that ultimately benefits society.
The study examining the Alaska Permanent Fund calls this into question. The $60.1-billion state fund, established in 1976, collects revenue from Alaska’s oil and mineral leases to fund an annual stipend to Alaskans. Since 1982, the fund has sent a dividend check to every Alaskan resident. In recent years, its been up to $2,072 per person, or $8,288 for a family of four (it was reduced in 2016 amid a budget crisis).
Alaska’s system set up an ideal experiment. Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania compared residents’ behavior before and after the dividend to decide what effect the payments had on workforce participation.
They found that full-time employment did not change at all, and the share of Alaskans who worked part-time jobs increased by 17%. . .