Can $500 a month change a city? Stockton tests universal basic income

San Francisco Chronicle

What could you do with an extra $500 a month? Lorrine Paradela got a better night’s sleep.

The 45-year-old single mother is one of the 125 Stockton residents receiving monthly cash disbursements as part of an attention-grabbing experiment on guaranteed income.

Paradela has been able to pay for a new car after her old one was wrecked in a crash. She bought a video game console for her 16-year-old son as a thank-you gift for his help taking care of his 10-year-old sister.

But the biggest transformation has been her state of mind. Paradela said she used to lay awake at night, thoughts racing over how she would pay her expenses. She would get up in the morning exhausted.

“I’d be asleep and my mind would still be thinking about bills. I’d be dreaming about bills,” she said. “The extra money made it a little bit easier to sleep, to breathe better.”

For 18 months, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration is tracking how the $500 payments change recipients’ lives, a test to prove the viability of a concept known as universal basic income. Supporters argue that providing everyone with a baseline wage would remove financial stresses, improve people’s health and address economic inequality.

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