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What a Kenyan village can teach us about a universal basic income

Jacklin Okotch Osodo
Jacklin Okotch Osodo, a pregnant mother of two children
Joe Posner/Vox
Byrd Pinkerton is a senior producer and reporter on Unexplainable, Vox's science podcast. She covers everything scientists don’t yet know but are trying to figure out, so her work explores everything from the inner workings of the human body to the distant edges of the universe.

Free money, for everyone, forever. No strings attached.

That’s the idea behind a universal basic income, an idea that governments and organizations around the world have started toying with, from Finland and the Netherlands to Silicon Valley and Canada.

Late last year, Dylan Matthews went to Kenya to understand one specific experiment — a project organized by the nonprofit GiveDirectly. He wrote a feature piece about his trip. In this episode of Weeds in the Wild, he introduces Sarah Kliff to some of the specific people he met and walks through the policy tensions in a UBI program — like whether it makes sense to give everyone, no matter how rich or poor, the exact same amount of money.

Learn more

  • Here’s a debate between two economists about what UBI would look like in the United States.
  • Dylan’s written an explainer that gets into some of the other questions surrounding UBI (and features an excellent Dire Straits music break.)
  • Like what you’re listening to? Find the rest of our Weeds in the Wild episodes right here.

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