On the program of the socialist candidate Benoît Hamon during the 2017 presidential election, universal income has resurfaced in the debate in favor of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the Rhine, a new experiment tries to find out more about its impact. One hundred and twenty-two people, drawn at random from some two million volunteers, will receive 1,200 euros per month, unconditionally, for three years.
The payments are financed by donations from 181,000 contributors and the project, presented on Tuesday 1is June, will be scientifically evaluated in a long-term study. “Over the next three years, we want to empirically study whether and how the unconditional and regular payment of a sum of money that covers more than the subsistence level has an effect on the behavior of people”, explained Jürgen Schupp of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), scientific manager of the project.
No consideration is required
This is the second initiative in this sense promoted by the Berlin private structure Mein Grundeinkommen (“my basic income”). A first experiment on a smaller scale took place over a year in 2017. Eighty-five people received 1,000 euros per month. The device targeted people with low incomes.
In this new project, the lucky ones were chosen without income criteria. No consideration is required; it’s up to everyone to see if they combine these payments with a job. The beneficiaries, people living alone and belonging to the middle class, are between 21 and 40 years old.
“It is in this age group that the major decisions in life are made. We want to know if and how an unconditional basic income affects these decisions ”, explained Michael Bohmeyer, one of the initiators. “The basic income debate is dominated by ideological convictions. We want to know what it really is ”, he adds. It is also a question of studying whether the beneficiaries use their new freedom for the benefit of the community.
The project is supported by scientists from the Max-Planck Institute, the University of Cologne and the Cologne University of Technology, through psychological, economic, behavioral and qualitative research. The allocation of a basic income, sometimes also called “universal income”, has already been tested in other countries but has often been limited to socially disadvantaged people.