Why universal basic income should cover both adults and children

in basicincome •  last year

The question of a child allowance (aka child basic income)

Here's the deal. I advocate a universal basic income of around $1,000 per adult and $350 per kid per month. That's my suggestion as a starting point, and I think the smaller additional basic income for kids is extremely important. You may think it's a bad idea or unfair. Well...

If you view a partial basic income of $350/mo per kid as a bonus for some adults, not others, and nothing for kids, you might view it as unfair.

If you view a partial basic income of $350/mo for kids as being for the kids themselves, while all adults earn $1,000, you might view it as entirely fair.

It really depends on how we look at it. I first want to make sure we understand each of these perspectives and how both can think of each other as being fair, and the other unfair, so when we debate about this in the years ahead, we can better understand each other.

Perspective A: (Fair)

  • Adult without child: $1,000
  • Adult with child: $1,000
  • Child: $350

Perspective B: (Fair)

  • Adult with child: $1,350
  • Adult without child: $1,350
  • Child: $0

Perspective A's view of B: (Unfair)

  • Adult with child: $1,000
  • Adult without child: $1,350
  • Child: $350

Perspective B's view of A: (Unfair)

  • Adult with child: $1,350
  • Adult without child: $1,000
  • Child: $0

It is hopefully apparent that both A and B both look fair, and each view's of the other doesn't.

So where's the key difference? What's the belief at the center of each perspective?

The difference I think is how one looks primarily at kids as being either a human being or a choice.

What do I mean?

Well first, let's understand that parents require more resources because kids consume more resources. They too eat. They drink water. They use electricity. They require an amount above and beyond the adult's requirement, because without it, the adult and the child both would be impoverished.

If we accept that as fair, and then give more to childless adults too, the cost of UBI jumps and it no longer eliminates poverty for larger households. So it costs more and doesn't work as well. Then, if those childless adults become parents, they lose access to resources and become worse off, which again can result in those households living in poverty, which is exactly what we don't want.

If you personally feel people should be effectively punished for having kids or rewarded for not having them, it's likely you see it as a personal choice and one to be paid for personally. It's a fair point, but to me that perspective almost views kids as pets or even objects instead of people. Like it's their own fault for adopting a dog, because dogs cost money and basic income is not meant for dog food. And I totally agree with this. Basic incomes should not be increased for pet ownership.

But kids aren't dogs.

Kids are fellow human beings who require food. And for the same reason adults should have their basic needs covered, children should too, because they too are human beings who also require their own resources to live.

I just don't think it's the same thing to say that because someone went out and got themselves a kid like they could have a pet, that their access to resources should not be sufficiently increased because it was their choice.

For one, oftentimes, there's no choice involved at all. Plenty of people get pregnant without choosing to do so. But more importantly, once a kid is born, that kid needs food, and because the parent also needs food, that parent needs more food to supply to the child who can't really supply it themselves.

Giving nothing to kids, or more to those without kids in an attempt to be more fair, does nothing for those who then have kids. They're worse off, and so are the kids. And then so are the rest of us.

The main point to understand here is that kids cost money... lots of money.

It will cost an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child born last year for 18 years, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Wednesday. That's up almost 3% from 2011 and doesn't even include the cost of college.

The biggest price tag is for families in the urban Northeast earning $105,360 or more. They will spend $446,100, much more than the national average, according to the report. Meanwhile, families earning less than $61,590 a year in rural areas will spend the least, at $143,160.

This means that even families spending the least, are spending $8,000 per year per kid. Since a partial basic income for kids of almost $4,000 would be about half this, that means such an amount would in no way make kids suddenly profitable to have. Kids would still involve a net loss of income. We would just be eliminating child poverty.

In addition we know that poorer families prioritize their spending more on their kids than more affluent families, so concerns that the money will be wasted are unsupported.

We already know from programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that for every $3,000 in cash provided to kids increases their earnings as adults by 17%. That's a smart investment. Other observed effects of child tax credits include: improved infant health, better school performance, higher college enrollment rates, and lower rates of poverty as seniors.

Canada has estimated that for every one dollar they spend on kids in the form of cash to raise their parents' incomes, they save three to nine dollars on those same kids as adults. That's money no longer spent on trials and prisons. That's money no longer spent on Medicaid/Medicare and higher private health insurance premiums.

Why would we not make this kind of investment in the future of our country when it so clearly pays off?

We also know from cash transfer programs all over the world, that giving money to parents for each kid, does not actually result in the fears of welfare queen baby factories that an unfortunate percentage of people hold.

International study
Source: Center for Global Development

If we are to accept this evidence, would we in any way wish 99.8% of our fellow citizens to suffer by not providing an additional partial basic income for kids so that 0.2% of our fellow citizens don't have an extra kid? Is that where our priorities should lie?

But that's not even where the evidence trail ends. According to the WHO, there's also evidence basic income could reduce long-term fertility rates.

WHO report

So here we are worried about an explosion of kids, and not only does the evidence contradict this, it also supports the possibility of fewer kids over time, and especially reduced teenage pregnancy.

In fact, the existing system creates a greater incentive to have kids than a basic income system would, because right now the only way to really get any assistance is to have a kid. Think of it this way. Right now you get nothing unless you have a kid, then you get $16,000. Under basic income, you'd get $12,000 no matter what, and then an additional $4,000 for a kid. That's a reduced incentive because adults without kids no longer get nothing.

Finally, the idea of not providing an additional amount for kids such that parents are effectively punished for having them and childless adults are effectively rewarded, is something that would be extremely less likely to pass as policy. Why?

Because again, look at all of our current policies and our rhetoric. It's all about families. There's just no seemingly conceivable way a basic income guarantee is going to be passed into law that steps on families in favor of single adults and childless couples. That would only be possible if suddenly everyone started demonizing "hard-working families", and we all started elevating the idea of "virtuous singles" and "childless champions" or something. How likely is that?

And also, is it something we even want? Because apparently having a kid greatly decreases climate change denialism. It's almost as if raising little humans leads to caring more about the kind of world that will be handed over to them as adults.

Parents and global warming
Source: Having Kids Probably Won't Destroy the Planet

But in the end, the simple fact of the matter is that making basic income fully universal so that even kids get it, is what's required to start every household above the poverty line each month. And if you're worried about everyone suddenly having kids for cash, the scientific evidence does not point in that direction.

Interested in doing more to grow the basic income movement than you can through social media alone? Filling out this survey from the Universal Income Project would be helpful. You can also sign the Economic Security Project's belief statement, join the Basic Income Slack channel, Basic Income Action, and the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network.

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I have no problem with kids being included in the UBI. It really is a simply concept that applies to all...poverty is a lack of money..to end it, money is required. Kids, as you explained, cost money. To implement a UBI in an effort to reduce/eliminate poverty then put parents at risk of falling back into it because they have kids makes no sense. But then again, the arguments against UBI dont make any sense to my anyway.

I'm so glad I've found you. I've been looking for a community to discuss politics on Steemit for a while, but it's a little hard to find like minded people. I completely agree with you re: basic income, and I would love to add to the movement.

Upvoted, resteemed and have some tips!

@tippy vote



Thank you and I'm not sure how @tippy works, but thank you for the tip as well!

Wow. Huge post. Thanks for sharing. I got it off your Twitter. Will take some time to digest it. Cheers.


Always happy to hear someone finding me here via Twitter. Cheers!

Costs though might make this unlikely. I think better is Citizen's income which covers all US Citizen's who reach a certain age.


Because we actually already collect taxes for programs like SNAP, WIC, EITC, CTC, and provide tax expenditures in the form of child deductions and other tax expenditures, the basic income for kids part is actually mostly revenue neutral. We'd really just be combining everything into one flat universal amount, and increasing the size a bit.

SOCIALISM CREATES people with no creative minds. They rely on handouts and the rich and successful with a creative mind. Don't have kids is the answer to support them. If you allow this kind of free money, ALL THE DEADBEATS will having kids like no tomorrow and living off the handouts. So I TOTALLY DISAGREE! Get rid of INCOME taxes is the correct answer and supply a CONSUMPTION TAX ONLY! That eliminates people sponging and they then get more creative.


Please read my most recent post before this one. You don't appear to know what basic income actually is and have it confused with something else.


No buddy, ANYTHING ANYONE gets for FREE is socialism. You work for your money. You create, then prosper. Where does this BASIC INCOME come from? The people who make the money. The "basics" or welfare creators they take your money from the CREATORS to enhance themselves. You put in what you take out. You build. Can't build from the top down. Your thinking is bizarre..Universal income my ass..Get a job..create and build something like I did. No handouts for me..


Anything we get for free is socialism?

Every resident of Alaska every year gets a dividend check. Is that socialism? Would you refuse to cash it every year as a handout?

Is Monopoly a game about socialism?

I also think you take no issue with all the tax subsidies you enjoy. That's free money.

Also, basic income isn't free money. Everyone pays into it.

Additionally, what is your answer to the automation of human labor? You think a consumption tax is going to solve that one? You think tax cuts are going to save the economy from a lack of demand? Millions of people unemployed by intelligent software like self-driving cars and trucks are going to be hurt by receiving enough money to live each month above the poverty level instead of going homeless and hungry? Or do you think millions of truck drivers are all going to go back to school to become software engineers for Facebook and Google?

I provided you a link to read. I don't think you read it. I don't think you even read this post. I think you read the title. Try learning something new and challenging what you think you know instead of just assuming you know enough to comment on stuff you haven't even read.


Every resident of Alaska every year gets a dividend check. Is that socialism? Would you refuse to cash it every year as a handout?
Yes its socialism, the people who pay into it created it..do you think it grew from a tree? It should be kept by the people who produced it and it was not the government. They produce NOTHING..So who should pay for the people who don't have a job due to intelligent softwares? Someone who created something? Money should be stolen from hard working individuals? NO. Go and learn about taxes and what should be done about it. Your links and thinking are INSANE AND archaic! Read each link and educate yourself: https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/?s=taxes

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If you personally feel people should be effectively punished for having kids or rewarded for not having them, it's likely you see it as a personal choice and one to be paid for personally.

That's my position, and I think the only reasonable and rational position you can hold unless you are talking about children conceived as a product of rape, incest or some other non-consensual encounter.

It's a fair point, but to me that perspective almost views kids as pets or even objects instead of people. Like it's their own fault for adopting a dog, because dogs cost money and basic income is not meant for dog food.

This is where I think you go awry. Adoption is not the same as giving birth. Adopting a pet or a child is doing a service to that person or animal that already exists. Adoption doesn't bring any added burden to society, it simply shifts it from one place to another for life that already exists.

The decision to bring new life (and all of the resources that new life will require and environmental burden that new life will bring) into the world is completely different. The decision to have a child is akin to the decision to breed new animals - not adopt them.

With our planet in the midst of the The Holocene extinction, or the 6th great mass extinction in earth's history, as a direct result of human activity, its time to take a look at our massive overpopulation issue. From the overfishing of the oceans, to the chemical saturation of the environment, to the destruction of our rain-forests and wetlands, to the desertification of our lands, to global warming, to islands of floating plastic in our seas as big as countries - we are depleting the resources of our planet at an unsustainable rate. We should be encouraging people to have fewer children rather than draining our dwindling resources in an attempt to subsidize efforts to pack even more people on our overcrowded planet.


Here's the thing, conditions always change. It is entirely possible to start a family while working in a great job. It's also possible, and increasingly likely, to lose that job to automation or offshoring, and then be unable to find a job that pays as well, or any job at all, for an extended period of time.

So the question becomes, should entire families suffer poverty as punishment for the automation or outsourcing of their labor?

As for the idea of overpopulation itself, I recommend watching this great Kurzgesagt video on it.

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