Drake Baer – What Happens When You Give Free Money to Poor People

Finland, the country that gave the world the sauna, is now experimenting with another act of radical generosity. On January 1, it became the first European country to give unemployed citizens a “basic income” — a no-strings-attached monthly payment meant to cover the basic costs of living.

The Guardian reports that it will be a two-year trial of 2,000 Finns randomly selected that are currently receiving unemployment benefits. These 25- to 58-year-olds will receive the equivalent of $587 a month, replacing their previously in place social benefits and paid out if they gain employment. Ideally, these funds will help recipients sidestep the so-called “welfare cliff,” where recipients avoid taking on higher-income jobs for fear of losing public support, a danger that’s present not just in Finland but (very much) in the U.S.

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