Case study: Stockton guaranteed income

Before SEED came along, I was paying a lot of bills and didn’t know how I was gonna eat…it’s like being able to breathe.” – Laura, participant 

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) recently concluded a two year guaranteed income demonstration in Stockton, California. SEED randomly selected 125 residents in neighbourhoods with a median income at or below $46,033 – the city’s median household income – and gave them each $500/​month for 24 months. This was provided, as far as possible, on top of existing social security benefits.

The cash was unconditional – no strings attached. It did not require people to work. The project found that it yielded multiple benefits including:

  • Reducing income volatility
  • Supporting employment by removing material barriers to full-time employment and giving recipients the emotional and financial capacity for risk-taking (prior to the study, 28% of recipients were in full-time employment; one year later 40% were employed full-time – compared with 32% and 37% in the control group) 
  • Enabling recipients who performed care work to receive compensation
  • Enhancing wellbeing and reducing depression and anxiety 

One participant, Mekie, said: Things got a little easier. So my car payments are on time now. So it’s better. Rent’s been getting better.” 

The success of SEED led to the establishment of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 40 mayors calling for a guaranteed income as a way of tackling poverty across the country.