This Kenyan village is a laboratory for the biggest basic income experiment ever
Jacklin Okotch Osodo, age 29, lives in a small hut with her son and daughter in a tiny village on the southwestern edge of Kenya. Their home is part of a larger compound centered on her husband’s father and his four wives. She is expecting her third child very soon. Her husband lives in Nairobi, and every week and a half or so he sends back money: about 200 shillings ($2) in lean times, about 500 ($5) when things are going better. I asked Jacklin if she’s ever gone the whole day without eating; she has. I asked when the last time this happened was. She told me, “Last week.”
But when the nonprofit GiveDirectly told her that it would give her, and every other adult in her village, a basic income payment of 2,280 Kenyan shillings (about $22) a month for the next 12 years, she knew immediately that she would not spend the money on food. Her plan is to save the money and then use it to pay her children’s school fees.
“My dream is to educate my son because I didn’t have the opportunity,” she told me in Luo, the local language. “I do not want my son to be in the situation that I was in and the things that I have been through.” She says she wants him to grow up to be an engineer, or a doctor. Jacklin’s choice flies in the face of a persistent myth propagated about the poor, both in the developing world and in rich countries. This myth says that poor people can’t be trusted with money — that it’s better to give them concrete things like food or bednets or school supplies.
And yet Jacklin is being given cash with no strings attached, and choosing to use it in the way that she feels will most benefit her family in the long run. She isn’t frittering it away, or wasting it, or hoarding it for herself. The myth of the irresponsible welfare recipient just doesn’t apply.
GiveDirectly’s basic income trial has a simple premise: trust the poor.
Read more: This Kenyan village is a laboratory for the biggest basic income experiment ever – Vox