On Tuesday, Paul got a chance to respond to questions from the Reddit community, including some on his favorite topics, like the design of our RCTs and our new basic income trial. In related news, with the Swiss voting on a basic income this Sunday, and details about Y Combinator’s basic income trial just released, this long-term cash transfer has generated continued interest. And with all this discussion, the need for a complete, rigorous test becomes more urgent than ever.


1. I’m Paul Niehaus of GiveDirectly. We’re testing a basic income for the extreme poor in East Africa. AMA!
Reddit, Paul Niehaus, May 31, 2016
Hi Reddit – I’m Paul Niehaus, co-founder of GiveDirectly and Segovia and professor of development economics at UCSD (@PaulFNiehaus). I think there’s a real chance we’ll end extreme poverty during my lifetime, and I think direct payments to the extreme poor will play a big part in that.

2. Y Combinator and GiveDirectly Move on Basic Income
Observer, Brady Dale, May 31, 2016
Y Combinator plans to run a small pilot program where it gives some residents of Oakland, California, a fixed set of money every month. In other words, it’s giving them what’s called a basic income. GiveDirectly wants to run a similar program for roughly $30 million, probably in East Africa. In January, Y Combinator, the country’s top tech accelerator, announced its intention to run experiment with giving people enough money to get by, no strings attached, as the Observer previously reported. Today, the company announced a research director to run the program and the plan for its pilot, on its blog.

3. From Columnist’s Pen to Charity Coffers
Chronicle of Philanthropy, Marc Gunther, June 1, 2016
Paul Niehaus, an economics professor and the co-founder of GiveDirectly, which makes cash transfers to poor people in East Africa and uses randomized, controlled trials to shape its work, says: “Stories are powerful and important, and they help us understand the world. But stories don’t scale. Organizations scale.”


4. Kenya: President Kenyatta’s Madaraka Day Speech
All Africa, President Kenyatta, June 1, 2016
During our time in office, the most vulnerable Kenyans have received unprecedented support under the Inua Jamii cash-transfer programme. In the last year alone, 725,000 households drawn from every constituency in the country have received 17.4 billion shillings in bi-monthly cash transfers.

5. Your State on Welfare
Slate, Marketplace, June 1, 2016
In the two decades since welfare reform, the number of poor families receiving cash welfare has plummeted by more than half. In 2014, just 23 out of every 100 poor families received cash welfare. Compare that with 1996, when 68 of every 100 poor families received cash welfare. So how do states spend their welfare dollars? You can find state-by-state data here, or scan the charts below to see how Marketplace crunched the numbers.


6. The Inventory: Peter Singer
Financial Times,, Hester Lacey, May 27, 2016
Peter Singer, 69, is a professor at Princeton University and the University of Melbourne, and author of titles including Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics and The Most Good You Can Do. His 1972 essay “Famine, Affluence and Morality” was recently reissued in book form, with a foreword by Bill and Melinda Gates.


7. ​A universal basic income only makes sense if Americans change how they think about work
Vox, Ezra Klein, June 1, 2016
Eduardo Porter’s broadside against a universal basic income focuses almost entirely on the cost and efficiency of cutting every American a check that would keep them out of poverty. But the harder — and more important — question around a UBI is about how it interacts with our culture of work. And the truth is I have no idea how to answer it. Here is the question: Could we respect people who live off a universal basic income? .

8. A universal basic income could absolutely solve poverty
Vox, Matthew Yglesias, May 31, 2016
Eduardo Porter has a column up with the provocative headline “Why a Universal Basic Income Will Not Solve Poverty,” which intrigued me because my understanding from reading coverage by Vox’s own Dylan Matthews and others was that a UBI most certainly would solve poverty. Having read Porter, I remain unconvinced. His argument turns out to be something more like “a universal basic income would be expensive” or “a universal basic income is an example of a poorly targeted public policy.” The former is clearly true, and the latter is at least something clearly worth talking about. But Porter’s own numbers make it very clear that a UBI would eliminate poverty in the United States and would do so at a price that, though high, is within the realm of possibility.

9. Y Combinator Wants to Test a Revolutionary Economic Idea
Fortune, Kia Kokalitcheva, May 31, 2016
Y Combinator, a prestigious Silicon Valley accelerator program for startups, is wading into a new “world changing” project: basic income. On Tuesday, Y Combinator said in a blog postthat it would conduct a short pilot study in Oakland, Calif., “a city of great social and economic diversity” that “has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality.” The accelerator has also hired Elizabeth Rhodes, a PhD in social work and political science from the University of Michigan, where she completed research on health and education in slum communities in Nairobi.

10. Will Switzerland give every adult $2,500 a month?
CNN, Ivana Kottasova, May 30, 2016
Switzerland is considering giving every adult citizen a guaranteed income of $2,500 a month. No questions asked. The country is holding a national referendum on the introduction of a basic income on June 5. Its supporters want the government to guarantee each person a monthly after-tax income of at least 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,520).

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