Basic Income: GiveDirectly Gives Money Directly To The Poor Of Kenya

The concept of a basic income is one that is sure to cause a lot of argument whenever it comes up.

For a concept that, to put it simply, looks at a form of social security system where all citizens in a country receive a stated and unchanging sum of money from the government or other public institution, in addition to or in the absence of income from elsewhere, it is pretty interesting.

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A most likely scenario when the discussion comes up in a well represented forum would be; the not so well-to-do swearing by it, the middle income citizens insisting that it will encourage laziness and the rich swinging either way.

One charity has however decided to go a step ahead of the debate, as interesting as it is, and join some other ongoing programs carrying out experiments on Basic Income. For this reason, roughly 6000 people in Kenya will be getting money for at least the next 10 years, with no strings attached.

GiveDirectly Wants To Rigorously Test The Basic Income Idea

The experiment by GiveDirectly stipulates no conditions on how the money is to be spent, they will simply release the money and the recipients can do with it as they see fit.

GiveDirectly will however be measuring how the recipients spend the money working with leading academic researchers, including Abhijit Banerjee of MIT, to rigorously test the impacts. They want to see if the money improves the livelihoods of the community it is injected into over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.


In the article; What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That’s What We’re About to Test, which GiveDirectly co-founder Michael Faye wrote for Slate, they define what they mean by rigorous testing thus;

By “rigorous” we mean a few things. First, the test must be experimental, so that we generate unbiased and transparent estimates of impact.

Second, the guarantee must be a long-term commitment. We already know quite a bit about the beneficial effects of giving people money for a few years; the key question is how the knowledge that your livelihood is secured for more than a decade affects your behavior now. Do you take more risk? Get more schooling? Look for a better job?

Third, the guarantee needs to be universal within well-defined communities, since the goal is as much to understand social dynamics as individual behaviors. While various other basic income pilots have been conducted in the past, none so far have met all three of these criteria”.

If you have a question as to what the charity is hoping to prove or disprove, it is concerns that money of this kind (freely given to the poor) will be wasted on booze, cigarettes, and sex.

Subsequent studies have shown that it will not, with overwhelming evidence that the money is directed to more life-preserving needs. This is the evidence that GiveDirectly wants to build on and the results of this experiment will surely be pivotal to the argument for or against Basic Income.

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To run this experiment which is obviously far from cheap, GiveDirectly put up $10 million of our own funds to match the first $10 million donated by others.

Simply giving people money is a radical new idea when you consider the fact that for years we have heard variations of the saying; “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll be fed for life” but maybe it’s time we saw some argument for the latter, or what do you think?