The Case For Extending Basic Income To Children


It may seem premature to debate the logistics of universal basic income(UBI), when the first hurdle is getting the public and policymakers on boardwith the concept. But policy can live or die in the details.

One thorny aspect is whether a basic income should target those of working age, all adults, or everyone. In the U.S., entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has chosen the all-adults approach. The cornerstone of his platform is a basic income, branded a “Freedom Dividend,” of $1,000 per month. This would be paid out to all U.S. citizens aged 18 and over, in the hopes of curbing poverty, allowing for creative and useful forms of unpaid labor to flourish, providing a safety net for those displaced by the automation of work, and even growing the economy.

Let’s unpack just one piece of this: the question of whether kids should be direct beneficiaries of a basic income as well.

Almaz Zelleke is a political science professor at NYU Shanghai, who has studied basic income for many years. She believes that an American UBI needs to include children, who are cut out of Yang’s plan. “Only basic income that goes to children, as well as adults, can actually eliminate the poverty of families with only a single parent, or a single earner,” Zelleke argues.

This is related to the precarious finances of children and single-parent families. Zelleke explains, “When you design a basic income, you have to make a choice: are you targeting an individual, or are you targeting a family?” Her choice is firmly for the latter: “I would prioritize a basic income that, in its design, is designed to lift single parent families, which are the most vulnerable families, economically. To lift those families above the poverty threshold, rather than individuals.”

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