Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a type of program in which all people receive a regular sum of money unconditionally, regardless of employment or current wages. Proposed UBI programs vary across the world, allowing different UBI programs to align with both progressive and conservative goals. Several UBI pilot studies have been tried throughout the world, and the interpretations of results vary widely. UBI proponents must consider many questions about logistics, economics, and human behavior: How will UBI be funded? Who will receive the income, every person or every household? Will people stop working or will greater economic stability allow them to better contribute to society? Does UBI even make sense?
UBI benefits are not withdrawn if a person works, so work is not disincentivized. UBI allows people more economic stability to pursue other fulfilling work: entrepreneurship, arts, child-raising, or higher education.
A major criticism to UBI is that providing income to people for free will incentivize them to not work. Less people working will hurt the economy. Less people working will cause more chaos in society, but most importantly, disincentivizing work will deprive people of a purpose in life. Critics of UBI who cite the issue of disincentivized work are mainly concerned that UBI will cause people to stop working permanently.
UBI does not reduce incentives to work. A conditional welfare system with negative income tax disincentivizes people to work because as a person's income increases, benefits decrease. This system contributes to the poverty trap. Since UBI is unconditional regardless of income, UBI does not discourage work.
Results from preliminary studies to test the effectiveness of UBI suggest that people who received a guaranteed minimum income did not stop working. Instead, part-time employment increased. Another study showed that people pursued work more flexibly and some pursued education. Results from these studies show that people use their guaranteed income to improve their lives and economic positions rather than stop working.
If people find work fulfilling, then a guaranteed minimum income will not cause them to stop working. Instead, UBI allows people to pursue jobs that are more fulfilling even though the job pays less. These jobs could be in entrepreneurship (founding a company, opening a restaurant) or the arts (managing and working at a community theater, organizing community arts programs). Thus, UBI does not affect the labor supply and allows people to pursue more fulfilling lives.
[P1] UBI benefits are not dependent on income level.
[P2] People want to work because work is fulfilling.
[P3] UBI does not disincentivize people to work; it allows people to work more flexibly.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P2] People will always take the easy way out and will choose not to work if income from UBI is enough for them.
The following study by Ionna Marinescu under the Roosevelt Institute explores how unconditional, guaranteed minimum income affected recipients in three experiments.