Part 3 of a 3-part series on lessons we’ve drawn from observing the Universal Basic Income Pilot village over the past year. (Parts 1, 2) For an update on our UBI program please see our UBI study page.

“Aspirations” are a hot topic among poverty researchers these days. Following suggestive evidence from studies like this one from Ethiopia, scholars working at the boundary between economic development and psychology are asking whether people’s goals in life – and their beliefs about what goals are achievable – can be shifted, and whether this actually changes their lives as a result. At GiveDirectly we’re already collaborating on one related study, and have also been watching the first basic income pilot village with keen interest to see what recipients self-report about how their own aspirations are evolving.

In general, recipients tend to report that they now have more space to think about long-term goals. In our follow-up data, a majority of recipients report feeling more confident about their future. Many report some specific plan for the future they are working on, though the specifics vary quite a bit – for example, 18% prioritize saving up their transfers, 17% are focused on educating their children, 10% want to improve their houses, another 10% want to start businesses, and so on. Some explicitly point to increased confidence as the factor that is shaping their decisions:

  • “Believing that payments will continue for that long influenced my confidence to make certain decision for my future, such as buying second hand car for hire as my source of income.” Jael, 57

For some of the older recipients, the decision whether or not to invest in the future literally depends on how likely they are to survive:

  • ‘Personally, if I’m still alive in the next five years, I will work on piping water to my household.” Fredrick, 70

And for others the key question is not so much their own individual plans as whether they can persuade their neighbors to come together to make shared investments:

  • “Your coming has also helped us because you have made us open our minds to think on how to plan well and invest. We do not have a milling machine in this village unlike other villages so I would love my fellow women to come together and buy one.” Teresa, 69

We’ll be tracking these aspirations – and whether or not they are realized – as the full-scale initiative now launches and the research team begins its independent data collection.

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