Alaska’s provision of regular, unconditional income to its inhabitants has had no overall effect on employment, a recent study has found.

The Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), provided by the Alaskan government to all citizens who apply for it, currently stands at approximately $2000 per person per year. The authors of the study have indicated that, although this seems a small amount, the fact that it is applied regardless of age means that a two-parent family with two children could claim $8000 per year, which is considerably more substantial.

The study was carried out by Associate Professor Damon Jones of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, and Assistant Professor Ioana Marinescu of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice. Jones is a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research, while Marinescu has had her research published in a number of peer-reviewed journals.

Claims have previously been made that the provision of a universal basic income such as the PFD would tend to discourage participation in the workforce. However, the studies which seemed to support this have been based on situations where the money provided was given only to a small group of people. Jones and Marinescu posited that, in a situation where unconditional funds are provided to a large population, effects on employment could differ.

The study did in fact find that there was no overall decrease either in employment or in overall hours worked. The authors suggest that one reason for this could be that the PFD recipients, in spending their additional funds, are indirectly increasing the need for extra employees to provide goods and services to them.

The only significant change found by the study was a 17% increase in part-time work. Given that a greater percentage of women than men appeared to be taking up part-time work, it is possible that this change may have been, at least in part, the result of women using the extra funds to provide childcare, without which they would have been unable to remain part of the workforce.

The study was reported in a number of news outlets, including the New Yorker.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund originated in the 1970s, with a sudden influx of money due to revenue from newly exploited Alaskan oil reserves. Following concerns that a corresponding increase in government spending could be unsustainable should the amount of oil revenue decrease, the Permanent Fund was established, receiving 25% of “all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral revenue sharing payments and bonuses received by the State”, according to the wording of the relevant amendment to the Alaskan constitution.

The Permanent Fund Dividend was first provided in 1982, when it was only a few hundred dollars per person. It has since increased at an approximate rate of $500 per decade.


Edited by: Dawn Howard