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We just can’t know until we try – Cash in the News

This week saw continued and often in-depth coverage of GiveDirectly’s basic income trial. On both sides of the Atlantic reporters at The Telegraph and New York Magazine asked whether instituting a basic income could make welfare as a whole more efficient and better at serving the poorest. Meanwhile, research continues to show positive impacts of cash transfers, with a paper from the American Economic Journal finding that cash transfers in Uruguay improve birth outcomes and reduce low birthweight.


GIVEDIRECTLY IN THE NEWS AND BLOGS

1. Could paying everyone benefits – rich and poor – be the best way to tackle poverty?
The Telegraph, Peter Spence, May 1, 2016
Now, GiveDirectly, a charity that gives money to people in Kenya and Uganda, is gearing up to launch its own basic income trial. For the first time, the idea of a basic income – which has existed for centuries – will put be put to a rigorous test. Michael Faye, a GiveDirectly co-founder, says that “there is often an implicit assumption that the poor can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves”. As a result, governments have relied on large, bureaucratic systems to help those in need.

2. The Anti-Poverty Experiment That Could Fix America’s Broken Welfare System
New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer, Annie Lowrey, May 1, 2016
This first real initiative, announced just this month, comes from the charity GiveDirectly, which, well, gives money directly to very, very, very poor families in Kenya and Uganda. It plans on providing a basic income to at least 6,000 Kenyans for a decade or longer, an initiative that will flush millions of dollars to some of the most vulnerable households on Earth. How is this different from the other case studies that we have? Well, the wonks who run the charity figured that to truly test a universal basic income you would need a program that was universal, meaning that everyone in a given community received it. You would need it to be basic, meaning that it would pay for a bare-bones standard of living. And it would need to be long-term rather than a onetime income boost. No such program has ever existed.

3. This could be the most important holiday when robots take all our jobs
Tech Insider, Chris Weller, May 1, 2016
The good news is that such a study is coming: Later this year, the nonprofit GiveDirectly will launch a 10- to 15-year experiment in Kenya that involves more than 6,000 people. It’ll be the world’s largest trial in history and the best evidence to-date gauging basic income’s effectiveness.

4. The Case for Universal Basic Income
Triple Pundit, Gina-Marie Cheesman, April 29, 2016
Some assume that providing people trapped in dire poverty with a basic income for a set time means they will never learn to provide for themselves. But not everyone makes that assumption. The NGO GiveDirectly is giving no-strings cash gifts to the extremely poor in Kenya by guaranteeing them a universal basic income for 10 years.

5. Could an income for all provide the ultimate safety net?
Financial Times, Tim Harford, April 29, 2016
Policy experiments are also on the way. The charity GiveDirectly has just announced plans to run a randomised trial in which 6,000 Kenyans will receive a basic income for more than a decade. Various Silicon Valley types — with one eye on the looming Robot Job Apocalypse — are making serious-sounding noises about running experiments too. Pilots are planned in Canada and Finland, and the Swiss have a referendum on the topic in June.

6. 6,000 people will receive a livable salary just for existing. And you could be next.
Upworthy, Thom Dunn, April 28, 2016
The truth is, there are some things that we just can’t know until we try — and that’s why GiveDirectly’s new initiative is so exciting. The theoretical evidence all looks to be in favor of a universal basic income, but there are still some things that can’t be solved on paper until they’re put into action. Worst-case scenario? GiveDirectly improves the lives of 6,000 Kenyans for a while. Best case? In 15-20 years, someone could be paying you to live as well.

CASH IN INTERNATIONAL AID

7. ​Modi’s DBT Review 1: Chandigarh Stumbles But Project Needs Support & Review 2
Swarajya, Seetha, May 2, 2016
Modi government’s bold experiment of direct cash transfer instead of subsidized food grains is facing initial glitches that go with any new step. But some vested interests are trying discredit the idea. Swarajya takes at close look (in a three-part series) at the DBT in Chandigarh, one of the areas chosen for pilot project.

8. Do Cash Transfers Improve Birth Outcomes? Evidence from Matched Vital Statistics, Program, and Social Security Data
AEA, Veronica Amarante, Marco Manacorda, Edward Miguel, Andrea Vigorito, May 2016
There is limited empirical evidence on whether cash transfers to poor pregnant women improve children’s birth outcomes and potentially help weaken the cycle of intergenerational poverty. …Uruguay, we estimate that participation in a generous social assistance program led to a sizable reduction in the incidence of low birthweight. The effect is due to faster intrauterine growth rather than longer gestational length. Our findings are consistent with improved maternal nutrition during pregnancy being a key driver of improved birthweight.

BASIC INCOME

9. A Basic Income Should Be the Next Big Thing
BloombergView, Paula Dwyer, May 2, 2016
Now and then a worthy economic proposal comes along that seems as politically unattainable as it is sensible. Then, on closer inspection, you see that it’s more than a policy-wonk’s fantasy. And you wonder whether it could actually prevail. This may be happening with the concept of a universal basic income. The notion that government should guarantee every citizen an annual stipend of, say, $10,000 — no strings attached, no questions asked — is being studied by politicians, economists and policy experts worldwide.

10. Economist Guy Standing explains “basic income”
CBS Seattle, Dave Ross, April 26, 2016
What do you think about the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income — a monthly payment that everyone would get, no matter what? Basic income is the idea that every man, woman, and child would receive a modest amount of money each month to cover their basic, essential needs as a right of citizenship. And that’s everybody — billionaires, drug addicts, talk show hosts.