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Silicon Valley giant Y Combinator to give people varied amounts of cash in latest basic income trial

  • Y Combinator will give thousands of people across two U.S. states cash handouts to branch out its trial of basic income
  • 1,000 will receive $1,000 per month for up to five years, while 2,000 will receive $50 a month for comparison

Start-up accelerator Y Combinator plans to roll out its initial cash handout trial to thousands of people across two U.S. states.

Its President Sam Altman has been one of many top Silicon Valley bosses to get behind the idea of basic income – the idea that all citizens should be paid a regular sum of money regardless of their employment status.

The incubator has already piloted a study of the effects of introducing a basic income. It gave cash handouts to residents of Oakland, California, to test how money would affect individuals' behavior.

Y Combinator's Basic Income Project will select 3,000 individuals from two U.S. states at random to compare how one group of people who receive a basic income will behave as opposed to another sample who do not.

Out of those 3,000, 1,000 will receive $1,000 per month for up to five years, while 2,000 will receive $50 a month for comparison.

"A randomized trial is considered one of the best ways to evaluate the impact of a proposed social policy. By comparing a group of people who receive a basic income to an otherwise identical group of people who do not, we can isolate and quantify the effects of a basic income," Elizabeth Rhodes, research director at YC's Basic Income Project, said in a blog post Wednesday.

"Of course, no single study can answer all questions about basic income, and every program has an array of positive and negative effects. Nonetheless, we view this experiment as a strong foundation for a broad research agenda on basic income."

Several tech billionaires including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have publicly talked about how a universal basic income could tackle poverty and the potential for mass unemployment as more jobs become automated.