“A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments:” an early version of this book is available for free download

An early version of the book, A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments,  is available for free download on my selected works website.
The devil’s in the details is a common saying about policy proposals. Perhaps we need a similar saying for policy research, something like the devil’s in the caveats. I say this both because nonspecialists (the citizens and policymakers who are ultimately responsible for evaluating policy in any democracy) have great difficulty understanding what research implies about policy and because specialists often have difficulty understanding what citizens and policymakers most hope to learn from policy research.
This problem creates great difficulty for Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiments which are now getting underway in several countries. These experiments can add a small part to the existing body of evidence people need to fully evaluate UBI as a policy proposal. Specialists can provide caveats about the limits of what research implies, but nonspecialists are often unable to translate caveats into a firm grasp of what that research does and does not imply about the policy at issue. Therefore, even the best scientific policy research can leave nonspecialists with an oversimplified, or simply wrong, impression of its implications for policy.
This short book discusses the difficulty of conducting UBI experiments and communicating their results to nonspecialists given both the inherent limits of experimental techniques, the complexity of the public discussion of UBI, and the many barriers that make it difficult for specialists and nonspecialists to understand each other. This book is an effort to help bridge those gaps in understanding with suggestions in an effort to help researchers conduct better experiments and communicate their results in ways more likely to improve public understanding of the possible effects of UBI.
The book, A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments, by Karl Widerquist is Published by Palgrave Macmillan (2018) and is available on Palgrave’s website, on amazon.com, and other online retailers. But an early version is available for free download on my selected works website.
Groups calling for basic income experiments spread across the UK

Groups calling for basic income experiments spread across the UK

Groups across the UK are calling for pilots of a radical alternative to the current welfare system.

A Universal Basic Income (UBI) would see all citizens given a guaranteed income regardless of their eligibility for benefits or their employment status.

Finland, Kenya, India, and cities across the United States have recently piloted the revolutionary idea.

Supporters of a basic income, such as the University of London’s Professor Guy Standing, believe that it would guarantee minimum living standards and basic economic security across the UK.

The movement started in South Yorkshire with the founding of UBI Lab Sheffield in 2017. This is a grassroots group formed of researchers and activists exploring the potential impact of a basic income through calling for pilots in local areas.

In recent months, UBI Labs have launched in Liverpool, Leeds, Kirklees and the North East.

UBI Lab Liverpool was founded by Councillor Patrick Hurley, who introduced a motion supporting a UBI pilot at Liverpool City Council.

Artist Toby P Lloyd, whose work explores the liberating potential of a basic income, is leading UBI Lab Newcastle.

There are also ongoing discussions with groups interested in launching UBI Labs in Belfast, Hull, Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Exeter, Lancaster, Portsmouth, Manchester, Norwich, and West Sussex.

The UBI Lab network allows groups to share resources, promotional materials, advice, and experience.

In May, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced that a Labour government would pilot basic income in Sheffield, Liverpool, and the Midlands.

Pilots in Canada, Namibia, and Finland have shown significant health benefits. Researchers found that a basic income reduced stresses associated with economic insecurity.

The pilot proposal produced by UBI Lab Sheffield is designed to measure the impacts on health and wellbeing as a key outcome of any basic income trial.

Members of the UBI Lab network have started conversations about basic income with council leaders, councillors and directly-elected mayors across the country.

The network wants to encourage more local authorities to lobby Westminster for a basic income pilot in their area and people interested in setting up new groups across the UK.

A recent Gallup poll found that 77% of UK adults favour the introduction of a basic income as a way to support workers who lose their jobs to automation.

In Spring 2020, the UBI Lab Network will host the second edition of UBI North in Sheffield. This will be the biggest conference on basic income in the UK.


Tchiyiwe Chihana of UBI Lab Sheffield said:

“Piloting a Universal Basic Income is an essential aspect of exploring potentially viable responses to the urgency of ever-expanding social and economic disparities. Consultative in approach, UBI Lab Sheffield ensures that multiple options reflecting the needs and experiences of people at micro and macro levels can be factored into a pilot while being adaptable. This also means that as many people as possible also have insight into the development of a potential UBI pilot in the city. Collectively, the raw data being developed has added to the resources of our city and has contributed to a sustainable knowledge pot for future use. The networking and the spin-off discussions that have developed out of UBI Lab Sheffield cannot be overstated.”


Cllr Erin Hill of UBI Lab Kirklees said:

“At a time when society seems very divided, the one thing most of us can agree on is that the current system isn’t working for anyone. Universal Basic Income – a regular payment made to everyone regardless of income or behaviour – isn’t a magic solution to all our problems, but it is a vital part of creating the better society we so clearly need. UBI doesn’t leave anyone behind. It provides basic security and opportunity for all citizens; protection for working people; a lifeline for those with caring responsibilities; better health and life chances for our children and grandchildren; support for marginalised groups, and so much more.

Right now, we have local people doing six or seven zero-hour contract jobs and still having to claim benefits; nurses and teaching assistants relying on food banks; people caring for relatives and being financially punished for it, and most people in poverty also being in work. Something has got to change. Across the world we have seen UBI transform lives and communities – I want us to be part of that transformation too.

Here in Kirklees we have a rich history of ordinary people standing up and demanding change for themselves, their families, and their communities – from women’s fight for the vote to the recent campaign to save our local hospital. I’m really proud that UBI Lab Kirklees has made a commitment to engage with local people, to make your voices central to the debate about what kind of society we want to be.”


Cllr Patrick Hurley of UBI Lab Liverpool said:

“The Basic Income is an idea whose time has come. Paying a wealth dividend to each citizen in order to help them make the best of their lives could be transformational for our country. People who want to take a chance on a change of career, or want to care for family members, or need a helping hand to smooth out life’s rough edges, would all benefit massively from something like this. At UBI Lab Liverpool, we think a series of demonstrations and pilots across the country could show the benefits to the wider population with limited downsides. That’s why we’re working with colleagues from across the city and across the country to promote Basic Income and see how best to implement it at a national level.”


Toby P Lloyd of UBI Lab Newcastle said:

“Critics of Basic Income say that it would make people lazy and they would all stop working. This argument has a very narrow view of ‘work’, defining it only as paid employment. Society relies on a huge amount of unpaid ‘work’ for it to function, most of this is done by women. Basic Income would not solve this, but it would be a first step in rewarding this unpaid labour and recognising its value. Basic Income would also be a way of investing in people, giving them more control over their lives and how they use their time, enabling them to reach their full potential. This is not possible for many people under the current system, because they are trapped in exploitative jobs which leave them with no time or energy to do anything else.”


Notes for editors:


– UBI Lab Sheffield is a collaboration between multiple organisations and individuals, seeking to explore the potential of a Universal Basic Income and the possibility of a pilot in the city. Organisations involved include Opus Independents, Sheffield Equality Group, The Centre for Welfare Reform and the University of Sheffield. https://www.ubilabsheffield.org/

– A feasibility study launched by the Scottish Government and supported by NHS Scotland is currently looking at the practicalities of a pilot in Scotland.

– Press assets and images are available at: https://www.ubilabsheffield.org/press

Social Experiments 101: A Short Primer for UBI Observers

Social Experiments 101: A Short Primer for UBI Observers

In principle, I’m a UBI supporter and have been for about 20 years. I qualify my support by saying “in principle” in order to signal that I recognize there are questions surrounding how such a plan would work in practice. At least some of them will need some pretty clear answers before we should take the plunge and implement the plan. And it may be that if we can’t answer some key questions, such as how to finance a UBI in a way that wouldn’t make currently low-income people worse off, we shouldn’t implement a UBI at all. As someone who supports UBI and who’s read most of Widerquist’s book, I’m worried about some of the commentary I’ve seen on the recently released findings from Finland’s basic income experiment.

For the full article, please visit the USBIG Blog.

Book Announcement: A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens

Book Announcement: A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens

Karl Widerquist has published a new book, titled A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens. It focuses on the actuality of basic income experiments, and presents the following summary:

At least six different Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiments are underway or planned right now in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Kenya. Several more countries are considering conducting experiments. Yet, there seems to be more interest simply in having UBI experiments than in exactly what we want to learn from them. Although experiments can produce a lot of relevant data about UBI, they are crucially limited in their ability to enlighten our understanding of the big questions that bear on the discussion of whether to implement UBI as a national or regional policy. And, past experience shows that results of UBI experiments are particularly vulnerable misunderstanding, sensationalism, and spin. This book examines the difficulties of conducting a UBI experiment and reporting the results in ways that successfully improve public understanding of the probable effects of a national UBI. The book makes recommendations how researchers, reporters, citizens, and policymakers can avoid these problems and get the most out of UBI experiments.

More information can be found, and the published version can be purchased here.

An early draft of the book can be downloaded for free here.