Over 12,000 Californians Now Benefiting From Basic Income Experiments

Basic income experiments are continuing their rapid ascent in California four years after Stockton launched one of the country’s first Universal Basic Income programs. A CalMatters investigation has identified over 40 such programs in cities and counties across the state. Together, they will provide over 12,000 people with $180 million in public and private funds.

Basic income programs were a pipe dream for many years, but the idea gained popularity during the 2020 presidential election. Candidate Andrew Yang proposed giving $1,000 per month to residents over the age of 18. 

The California experiments differ from the original model by targeting specific socioeconomic or racial groups. California’s very first basic income experiment in Stockton used a random selection of recipients in low-income neighborhoods. Mountain View and Coachella’s programs are geared toward immigrants. Marin and Oakland’s target people of color with children. San Francisco’s program is focused on Black and Pacific Islander individuals who are pregnant. In Santa Clara County, the recipients are foster youth. 

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is also overseeing a guaranteed income pilot program, which was included in the 2021-22 budget. It is the first state-funded basic income program in the nation. 

Studies show program recipients have largely used the unrestricted funds as intended. Proponents say early successes show this is a good way to pull people out of poverty. But the experiments have a range of critics, from conservative and libertarian groups to labor leaders like Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. She believes the focus should be on employers who need to pay their workers better wages. 

As the months and years go on, California will continue to be a laboratory for this novel idea. The rest of the country is watching.