The National League of Cities (NLC) — an advocacy organization representing 19,000 cities and towns in the United States — has published a report called The Future of Work in Cities, which briefly recommends that cities investigate universal basic income.

The Future of Work in Cities examines the changing nature of work, especially due to automation and the growth of the “gig” or “1099” economy, and the lays out several policy recommendations for cities to address these changes. One recommendation is that cities “explore basic income and other more broad-based social support systems.”

The NLC report describes basic income as “similar to US social security and welfare systems, with the major exception that the benefit goes to everyone, regardless of age, ability, class status, or participation in the workforce,” and provides a brief summary of a few arguments for and against such a universal and unconditional benefit:

Some individuals from the tech world tout basic income as a way to counteract the economic blow of automation replacing jobs currently occupied by humans. Other supporters argue that basic income is more streamlined, efficient, and transparent than currently administered social welfare systems. Finally, there are some individuals who endorse the idea of less work overall, arguing that a basic income might free up the time individuals spend working and allow them pursue other, more creative, and enjoyable pursuits. Many critiques of basic income systems center on how it will be sustainably funded or the cultural implications of instituting such a system (p. 48).

The authors mention taxation as a possible funding mechanism, but do not delve into any more detail.

Other strategies broached in the report include offering more portable benefits (e.g. health insurance that is not tied to an employer), increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that families have affordable childcare and paid leave, and easing the entry of individuals with criminal records into the workforce.

The Future of Work in Cities is the second report in NLC’s City of the Future series. The first report, City of the Future: Technology & Mobility, investigates ways in which new technologies will impact transportation systems in urban areas.


Nicole DuPuis, Brooks Rainwater, and Elias Stahl (2016) The Future of Work in Cities, National League of Cities Center for City Solutions and Applied Research.

Photo CC BY-NC 2.0 Sparky