Cities are uniquely positioned to lead the country forward through innovation and ferocious experimentation. As we near the 2020s, it is apparent that the nation will need a social welfare system built for this new century and its specific challenges. One proposal governments are increasingly exploring is a policy now widely known as “universal basic income,” or UBI. The proposal represents a scalable solution that can help us reimagine and improve our social safety net, while encouraging us to reflect on the deeply changing nature of work.

A range of policy interventions will be needed to tackle these challenges and usher in a future without dramatic labor displacement, unemployment and precarious work. We should not entertain the fantasy that a single policy will tackle all of the above-mentioned challenges. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence that UBI may be uniquely placed to address some of them. This policy guide is intended to extend the conversation surrounding the role that cities can play in increasing equity through local experimentation.

Universal basic income (UBI) is a cash payment granted to all members of a community on a regular basis, regardless of employment status or income level. It is meant to be individual, unconditional, universal and frequent. The proposal has been extensively discussed recently in the American context by those growing wary of automation- and AI- induced unemployment and economic insecurity. UBI, according to many in Silicon Valley, could be part of the solution because it would ease the transition for those at risk of work displacement, stabilize incomes across the board and enable residents to pursue retraining and alternative forms of work.

See the chart below to find out which places are piloting UBI, and read our UBI guide to find out how to pilot it in your city.


  • Universal: everyone in a given location is eligible (for pilots, this may be a random selection of residents of low and middle income neighborhoods)
  • Not Universal: targeted to a specific group
  • Basic Income: the amount is approximately sufficient to meet basic needs
  • Base Income: the amount is intended to be a supplement, but not to ensure basic needs
  • Cash Transfers: one-time transfer of cash as opposed to regular installments



Implementing organization



Amount and frequency

Universal basic income

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Casino Revenue Fund

North Carolina

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Ongoing since 1996

All enrolled members of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Approx. $3,500-6,000 / 6 months

Basic Income Project

TBD in 2019

Y Combinator Research

TBD (3-5 yrs)

1,000 residents of low- to middle-income neighborhoods

$1,000 / month

Ontario Basic Income Pilot

3 sites in Ontario, Canada

Government of Ontario

2017 – March 2019 (possible early termination)

4,000 low-income individuals and couples (18-64 years old)

Up to $16,989 per year for a single person, less 50% of any earned income

Up to $24,027 per year for a couple, less 50% of any earned income

Up to $500/month additional for people with disabilities

Universal base income

Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend


Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (state-owned)

Ongoing since 1982

All Alaska residents

Approx. $1,000-$2,000 / year

Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED)

Stockton, CA

Office of Mayor Michael Tubbs, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition, Reinvent Stockton Foundation

Feb 2019 – Jul 2020

100 residents of low-to middle-income neighborhoods

$500 / month

Chicago Resilient Families Initiative (proposed)

Chicago, IL

Chicago Resilient Families Initiative Task Force


Proposed: 1000 families

Proposed: $500 / month

Basic income

Magnolia Mother’s Trust

Jackson, MS

Springboard To Opportunities

2018 – 2019

16 low-income African-American mothers

$1,000 / month

Preserving Our Diversity

Santa Monica, CA

City of Santa Monica Housing and Economic Development

Nov 2017 – ongoing

21 low-income elderly, rent-burdened renters. Proposed expansion to serve up to 300

Calculated by household using the Basic Needs Subsidy Method, average of $500 / month

Base Income

Baby’s First Years (Income & the Developing Brain Study)

New York City, NY

New Orleans metropolitan area, LA

Omaha metropolitan area, NE

Twin Cities, MN

University of California, Irvine

Columbia University

New York University

University of Wisconsin-Madison

2017 – 2022

1,000 low-income mothers with newborns

$333 / month for 40 months for treatment mothers; $20 / month for 40 months for control-group mothers

Direct Giving Lab

Chicago, IL

Direct Giving Lab

Ongoing since 2017

70 low-income families. Proposed expansion to 200

$100 / month

Cash transfers

General Assistance

Merced, CA

Merced County Human Services Agency


Low-income individuals ineligible for CalWORKs and without children in the home

Calculated based on individual need