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Working Paper

The Macroeconomic Effects of Universal Basic Income Programs

What are the consequences of a nationwide reform of a transfer system based on means-testing toward one of unconditional transfers? I answer this question with a quantitative model to assess the general equilibrium, inequality, and welfare effects of substituting the current US income security system with a universal basic income (UBI) policy. To do so, I develop an overlapping generations model with idiosyncratic income risk that incorporates intensive and extensive margins of the labor supply, on-the-job learning, and child-bearing costs. The tax-transfer system closely mimics the US design. I calibrate the model to the US economy and conduct counterfactual analyses that implement reforms toward a UBI. I find that an expenditure-neutral reform has moderate impacts on agents’ labor supply response but induces aggregate capital and output to grow due to larger precautionary savings. A UBI of $1,000 monthly requires a substantial increase in the tax rate of consumption used to clear the government budget and leads to an overall decrease in the macroeconomic aggregates, stemming from a drop in the labor supply. In both cases, the economy has more equally distributed disposable income and consumption. The UBI economy constitutes a welfare loss at the transition if it is expenditure-neutral and results in a gain in the second scenario.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Luduvice, André Victor D. 2021. “The Macroeconomic Effects of Universal Basic Income Programs.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 21-21.