Better Life Lab

Is America Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?

Regular cash with no strings attached? Pilot programs suggest it actually works.


Episode Notes

Michael Tubbs grew up in poverty. And when, at 26, he was elected mayor of his hometown, he decided to do something about it.

And what he did in Stockton, California, no American mayor had done before. He started giving poor people cash. No strings attached.

Stockton’s pilot program in guaranteed basic income started lifting people out of poverty. It gave parents more time with their kids. And it was actually cost-effective.

So as we look to the Future of Work and Well-Being, could guaranteed basic income programs play a central role in lifting all of us up—and boosting the standard of life for all Americans?


Michael Tubbs, elected mayor of Stockton, California in 2016 at the age of 26—the youngest mayor in the country. He is known nationally for establishing the first city-led Guaranteed Basic Income program in America, which has inspired dozens of other cities across the country to try similar programs. Having lost his reelection bid in 2020, Tubbs recently founded the nonprofit End Poverty in California.

Natalie Foster, co-founder, co-director of Economic Security Project, which worked closely with Tubbs on Stockton’s Guaranteed Basic Income program.

John Summers, participant in pilot guaranteed basic income program, Cambridge RISE, in Massachusetts.


Stockton’s Basic Income Experiment Paid Off, Annie Lowrey, the Atlantic

The Potential for a Guaranteed Income: A Conversation with Four Mayors, New America California, 2021.

The Future of Leisure, Stuart Whatley, Democracy Journal, 2012

The Evolving Concept of Time for Work, Leisure, Pew Research, 2008

Less Work and More Leisure: Utopian Visions and the Future of Work, CBC Radio, 2018


About the Show

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate. All episodes