SINCE ITS INCEPTION, the Goldhirsh Foundation has had a strong track record of supporting innovative models for economic mobility that increase access to capital and promote inclusive entrepreneurship, especially among historically disinvested populations. We believe that entrepreneurship can be one pathway out of poverty. At the same time, we recognize that systemic change, especially in a complex arena like poverty, is a product of investment and exploration across policy, research, and direct service.
To that end, we work across a variety of programs to address economic mobility. We were an early investor in Kiva to explore micro lending to low-income entrepreneurs on a digital platform and with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to build start-up skills in youth from under-resourced communities. We have provided loans to low-income small business owners via our work with Opportunity Fund and Leaders for Urban Renewal Network (LURN). We supported fellowships and research about access to capital and inclusive entrepreneurship via the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. And as a continuation of our long-standing relationship with LIFT, we are collaborating with them to pilot conditional cash transfers in Los Angeles.
"Through these investments, we understand that communities are trying to help themselves, but that something is still not working."
In fact, some of the statistics around economic immobility and poverty are staggering:
46% of Americans lack enough savings readily available to cover a $400 emergency.
60% of Americans do not have enough money to get by for three months.
55% break even or spend more than they make.
1/3 of Americans have no savings at all.
14.3% of Californians live below the federal poverty line, roughly $24,000 a year for a family of four.
Four in 10 Californians live in or near poverty levels.
Further compounding these dire numbers are trends in technology and automation that threaten the future of people’s livelihood and work. Forty-seven percent of American jobs are projected to be automated in the upcoming decade, leading to significant job loss and an (ironic) increased dependence on technology. This also means the likelihood for upward economic mobility for the most vulnerable communities is significantly decreased.
Enter the concept of basic income, or a guaranteed income, which we started exploring in 2016 in partnership with the Economic Security Project. The Economic Security Project defines basic income as a “system of widely distributed, regular, unconditional cash stipends — no strings attached.” We’re intrigued by the initial promise demonstrated by domestic and international studies on the performance of unconditional cash transfers as an anti-poverty intervention: a review of existing studies in the United States and Canada by the Roosevelt Institute highlights that when given unconditional cash, the poor take care of their most basic needs and use the free time to focus on climbing up the economic ladder — finding a job, starting their own business, getting a degree.
Aligned with our efforts to test bold solutions for economic mobility, the Goldhirsh Foundation is working with the Economic Security Project and matching up to $250,000 in donations to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) to inspire and galvanize others to join them in supporting the exploration of a guaranteed income. Under the leadership of Stockton’s own Mayor Michael Tubbs, Stockton will pioneer a multi-year demonstration project to test and track a guaranteed income in real time.
We know we still have a lot to learn before we can declare basic income as a solution for poverty alleviation and a vehicle for economic mobility. We recognize there are gaps in research and a healthy skepticism about the topic. But, we believe that the only way to address some of the dire statistics confronting us as a nation are to test and learn by investing in research and pilot programs that may show promise. We cannot think of a better living laboratory than SEED for exploring basic income. We are committed to supporting and learning from efforts such as SEED with the end goal of meaningfully improving lives.
Join the Goldhirsh Foundation in funding the first ever municipal led basic income demonstration in the country via CrowdRise.