top of page
  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

A hand up not a handout


For the past year, residents of Stockton, a city of around 290,000 in California, have been granted a guaranteed income of US$500 a month. The income is unconditional: there are no strings attached, no questions asked and no work requirements. It is “a hand up, rather than a hand out.” The policy is a social experiment called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). As the website explains, the aim of the scheme — the first of its kind in the US — is to “humanise economic insecurity” and tap into “the simple belief that the best investments we can make are in our people.” The program “seeks to empower its recipients to prove that poverty results from a lack of cash, not character.”

As Fast Company reports, data gathered so far “undermines common criticisms of cash transfers: that the recipients will spend their money on frivolous items or use the cash to stop working.” Indeed, analysis shows people are spending 40 percent of the cash on food, 25 percent on home goods and clothes, and around 12 percent on utilities. The researchers will continue to track the results until the experiment ends this July. Of particular interest is the effect the extra income will have on people’s quality of life. For young mother Cassandra Gonzalez, a 20-year-old nursing student, the cash bonus has been a godsend. “I was super anxious. I was stressing out over every single penny I was counting. I still kind of do it now, but I’m more relaxed, and I can sit there and enjoy being around my family and not being like, ‘How are we going to do this? How are we going to do that?’”

Speaking to Capital Public Radio, another recipient, father-of-two Thomas Vargas, described the monthly top-up as a “big stress relief”: “It makes a difference on choices I can make.” Vargas is keen to use the money wisely so as to be seen as a good example of what can be achieved when people are provided with a basic income: “That’s why I’m trying so hard to make sure that I’m doing something positive with it because it is a big impact on what’s going to happen next.”

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page