The best way to move people out of poverty might be a simple paycheck.
Cities across the Netherlands are experimenting with new ways to solve poverty. Image via Wikimedia
Not too long ago, the city of Utrecht, Netherlands, came up with a brilliant experiment. All of the city’s low-income residents who received government assistance would now be ensured a guaranteed minimum income: no questions asked. Since then, other Dutch cities have started to experiment, hoping to move people out of poverty, with a paycheck.
The city of Gouda. Image via Wikimedia
The concept is simple, even if the logic feels counterintuitive. Some sociologists hypothesize that giving people extra income will incentivize them to work more. Others worry that the program will do just the opposite, and keep people in their homes (at a cost to working taxpayers). As Ralf Embrechts, director of the Social Development Association of Tilburg and one of the program’s chief leaders, told CityLab: “We want to discover, if you trust people and give them a basic income without any rules or obligations—so, unconditionally—that they will do the right thing.”
The size of the stipend isn’t large (Utretcht’s stipends hover around $1,000 per single adult). But the hope is that the stipend will cover basic living costs—housing, food—giving people the support structure necessary to locate and maintain a job. Residents will not be required to work while they receive the stipend, however, they will be strongly encouraged.
While currently only Utrecht has piloted the program, other cities—among them Tilburg, Groningen, Maastricht, Gouda, Enschede, Nijmegen, and Wageningen—are thinking of following. And although the evidence has yet to be delivered, the country’s experiment is grounded in good research and hope—a story worth following.