STOCKTON, Calif. — A California city plans to give several dozen families $500 a month for a year as part of a program to study the economic and social impacts of giving people a basic income.

The program in Stockton will track what residents do with the money and how having a universal basic income affects their self-esteem and identity, San Francisco radio station KQED reported .

The Economic Security Project, co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, is contributing $1 million to Stockton’s yearlong research project.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is coordinating the effort in his city of 300,000 people where 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty line.

Residents in the city east of San Francisco are coping with wage stagnation, rising housing prices, loss of jobs and the looming threat of automation, Tubbs said.

“I think Stockton is absolutely ground zero for a lot of the issues we are facing as a nation,” he said.

Stockton racked up millions in debt on development projects in the past, which got the city into trouble, Tubbs said. The city declared bankruptcy in 2012.

“We’ve overspent on things like arenas and marinas and things of that sort to try to lure in tourism and dollars that way,” he said.

Tubbs said the basic income experiment will show that Stockton’s best bet is to invest in its own people.

In some politically liberal corners of the country, including Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay area, the idea of distributing a guaranteed income has begun to gain support.

In Oakland, California, Y Combinator, a startup incubator, is giving about $1,500 a month to a handful of people selected randomly and will soon expand distribution to 100 recipients. It eventually plans to provide $1,000 monthly to 1,000 people and study how recipients spend their time and how their financial health and well-being are affected.

Dorian Warren, who co-chairs the Economic Security Project, said the goal in Stockton is to gather data on how having a basic income impacts people.

“What does it mean to say, ‘Here is unconditional guaranteed income just based on you being a human being?’ ” Warren asked.


Information from: KQED-FM.

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