Testing Basic Income: A Tech Incubator’s Response to Income Inequality

The tech industry may be our best bet to solve income inequality.

As we search for ways to batten down the country’s widening income gap, a startup incubator wonders if basic income could be the answer.

Y Combinator, based in the Bay Area, will test out what a basic income structure might look like here in the United States with a pilot program in Oakland.

In an interview with The Ringer, Research Director Elizabeth Rhodes explains why they chose the city:

Partly. … The cost of living and housing is more expensive, so it makes the study more expensive. But at the same time, there’s a concentration of wealth and vast inequality, so in some ways, it’s a microcosm of what might be coming, and what we’re already seeing with income inequality nationally. And with technology and developments [continuing] to put people out of work and then there’s this growing wealth among those creating the technology, [more and more places could look] like Oakland.

It’s also beautifully ironic considering that, as a tech incubator, Y Combinator feeds directly into the problems Rhodes stated.

The tech boom, for all its innovation and advancement, has been accompanied by many negative side effects. The robots taking peoples’ jobs were created by companies that incubators helped grow. The techies they fostered are the ones amplifying huge disparities in wealth.

Perhaps (hopefully) this is something they were conscious of when coming up with the program. The tech industry is not solely responsible for unleashing this beast on our economy, but it very well may be best suited to tame it.

It’s rather fitting then, that one of its own would use its gifted intelligence to solve the problem no one else has been able to solve.


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Cover image: Shutterstock


Posted 06.17.2016 - 11:05 am EST

Filed under

Economy News Tech

Written by

Michael Gorman