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The Basics of Universal Basic Income

Group photo

Economics writer Annie Lowrey (center) with Assistant Professor Juliana Bibadanure (L), faculty director of the Basic Income Lab at Stanford, and Ph.D. student Catherine Thomas, a research associate at the lab. (Photo by Jason Backrak)

Jan 9 2019
Mike Peña

The holidays may be over, but the season of giving lingers — at least in spirit among advocates of a universal basic income (UBI). Interest in UBI, commonly understood as a government program that pays a monthly stipend unconditionally to citizens, is on the rise in an age of mounting inequality and job displacement due to technological innovation.

On Nov. 29, 2018, economics writer Annie Lowrey came to Stanford to share insights from her new book, "Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World."

Lowrey, a contributing editor for The Atlantic, talked about how effective UBI pilot programs have been at improving the lives of participants in the United States and abroad. She also took on critics of UBI who say guaranteed cash would tempt people to quit their jobs and live off the dole:

Lowrey also asked the audience to imagine how a UBI might take away the deep shame

welfare recipients in America can feel. If everyone received such a payment, it just might

blur the imaginary line some draw to distinguish themselves from those who depend on

government assistance.

Her talk was presented by Stanford's Center for Ethics in Society and the Basic Income Lab.

Learn more about UBI at

"The Buzz" is the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society's media portal for ethics-related news on campus and beyond. We review events and speakers, and we feature initiatives that are of broad interest. A wide range of voices author the articles, including undergraduate students.