Alaska’s free money for residents hints at how universal basic income may work – ScienceNews


Most everyone who has lived in Alaska for a year or more just got $1,606, no strings attached.

The annual giveaway shares the Arctic state’s oil revenues with its residents. But Alaska’s program, now in its 38th year, is also providing valuable data for research into universal basic income, or UBI — an idea gaining traction in public debate thanks in part to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang making it a cornerstone of his campaign.

“The Alaska Permanent Fund [dividend] is the closest thing we have to a real-world UBI,” says Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Some studies suggest the Alaskan payments have coincided with overall poverty reductions and improvements to child health. But other research suggests a potential downside — giving everyone free money may further widen both the gender and wealth gap.