Prominent people of different political persuasions have supported the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) to solve the major socioeconomic ills plaguing the United States. Proponents have put forth a variety of UBI plans to tackle income inequality, future work transitions and the complexity of existing benefits programs. But according to economists Melissa S. Kearney and Magne Mogstad in this sobering and eye-opening fact-check, the proposals fall far short of their intended outcomes and could be counterproductive. This illuminating study offers the economically and politically savvy some important food for thought.


A universal basic income (UBI) would yield inferior results, compared to targeted-benefit programs.

The idea of a UBI, which would guarantee an unconditional minimum income to all citizens, is compelling to many in the business and public policy spheres. Some worry that wealth inequality threatens to  destabilize the United States politically and economically. Others are concerned that technology advances will eliminate jobs. Leaders of conservative interest groups want to shrink the size of government and make social safety nets more efficient.

The specifics of the various schemes in circulation...

About the Authors

Melissa S. Kearney is a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. Magne Mogstad is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

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