12Money for Nothing (Kenya, 2017): Universal basic income / Proximity to need / The poor are better givers

THE POSTER ON THE MUD WALL OF Agrippa Onywero's one-room hut read: “Happiness is not perfected until it is shared.”

The poster featured a white man and a white woman lying in a field of roses (ouch) and together intimately smelling a single rose. Beneath it, Agrippa clapped and sang a song that he had written for GiveDirectly.

He sang his song of thanks. His village was in GiveDirectly's universal basic income (UBI) program. Each month for the next 12 years he would receive $22, the poverty line in Kenya, from GiveDirectly. So would his brother and his mother and 6,000 other Kenyans living in 40 villages. GiveDirectly was also giving a short-term basic income for two years in 80 villages, and was monitoring a control group of 100 villages.

An independent contractor running randomized control trials monitors the programs. It's the largest UBI study in history. GiveDirectly admits that there is a lot of buzz and controversy around UBI, but there is not enough evidence. This is an experiment, and one impacting lives.

A year into the program, Agrippa, 39, had saved up his money to pay a dowry to his wife's family, and built this home on the far edge of his family's property for $150; next, he's thinking of saving up money for music lessons.

He sings the words for the song that he wrote on the back of a flyer for a herbalist promising to treat problems such as epilepsy, evil ...

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