Case Studies

Stockton, California – The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED)

Tags: Wellbeing Policy Design

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) is the first mayor-led guaranteed income demonstration in the United States. A collaboration between the Office of Mayor Michael Tubbs, the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition, the Economic Security Project, and the residents of Stockton, California, SEED is demonstrating a simple but innovative policy solution to poverty and inequality.

In January 2019, SEED began providing 125 residents with a guaranteed income of $500 per month for a planned period of 18 months. The income is unconditional, with no work requirements and no restrictions on how the money can be spent. Payments were scheduled to stop in the summer of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic had compounded residents’ economic struggles. With a large donation from the philanthropist Carol Tolan, the city extended the demonstration until January 2021.

The recipient selection process was led by two independent researchers, Dr. Stacia West of the University of Tennessee and Dr. Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania. Based on community feedback, West and Baker developed a recipient selection strategy that maximizes the project’s usefulness as a study while prioritizing fairness and inclusivity.

While the demonstration is underway, researchers conduct regular check-ins with the recipients to understand and measure how the additional income affects a variety of outcomes, including financial security, civic engagement, and health and wellness. The researchers’ findings so far indicate that universal basic income (UBI) can be a significant source of stability in meeting basic needs. Recipients report using the income to pay for dental work, utilities, and groceries, among other things.

Mayor Tubbs and other leaders of SEED have spoken with state, local, and US federal policymakers about how to design UBI initiatives. Their efforts are part of a larger UBI movement in the United States, notably championed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

SEED seeks to confront and solve some of the most pressing and pernicious problems facing modern cities: poverty, inequality, and widespread financial insecurity. The initiative is ongoing.

Find out more here, here, and here.

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