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The Future: Universal Basic Income ft. Teenager in Economics, Lauren Roberts-Turner

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Kriti: [00:00:00] Hey guys, welcome to WhyFI Matter$. So we haven't talked about economics in a while on the podcast. So definitely get ready for today's episode because you like me are going to be blown away by the young change maker Lauren Roberts Turner. Who's our guest today. I actually met Lauren back in April at a conference called the 'Footsteps Aspire for Equality Global Gathering of Women'. And we both spoke there and she spoke in an event called hope through economic empowerment. And the title of course sounded extremely interesting to me. So I attended it and I literally was mind blown by the intelligent and articulation and the way she described an economic program.

Universal basic income (UBI).

And I had not heard about UBI before, and she talked about how it can alleviate poverty and increase financial independence. So right away, I had to ask her to be on the podcast today. So I am thrilled to have her on the show today she's only 18 years old and she just finished her 'A- Levels', which is like the UK is equivalent of the SAT, but only extraordinarily much more difficult than the SAT and ACT and I will guarantee you that she is going to be a future policy maker one day . I'm so excited to talk to her again and learn more about universal basic income and share it with you on the podcast.

Hi, Lauren. Thank you so much for coming on. WhyFI Matter$ today. It's so it's so awesome to see you again. I love talking to you at the global gathering conference, so I'm just super excited as you can tell. Thank you so much for coming.

Lauren: [00:01:58] Yeah. I mean, thank you so much for having me. I was so excited when we met, because I feel like there aren't that many, I don't know that many girls anyway, interested in similar topics. So I'm yeah, I'm buzzing to be here. Yeah. So

Kriti: [00:02:10] can you tell me, and obviously the listeners a little bit more about some of your interests and also. What are your, what your plans are for your future? Because obviously she, Lauren right now is basically the equivalent of a senior who graduated here in the U S so she's going to college. So can you just tell us a little bit more about.

Lauren: [00:02:32] Yeah. So I've just finished my A Levels, which, uh, I guess is the end of your high school.

So I did English, literature, economics, and history, and then I'm going to specialize in politics and economics at university. And I'm going to do that. SOAS, which is like, I dunno, a few names, but the university of London is like, Like full of lots of small universities. And then where I'm going is called the London school of African and Oriental studies, which sounds really grand, but it basically is just studies. So, so, so I'm studying politics and economics, but it's from a non-Western perspective, which is what I'm really interested in because obviously we're brought up with like a Western view of the world, but it's not that simple and there's completely different ways of doing it. So yeah.

Kriti: [00:03:23] That's really cool because you got rid of the Eurocentric westernized view, even actually my school and like our history classes which is really good. I think we've, we've been looking at sources and like documents from like all over the world. Even though we were studying European history, we would look at European history through the lens of what's going on in India. So we'd look at like Indian documents. Okay. Obviously you can't talk about European history without talking about other countries.

So that was really cool, but that seems really exciting.

Lauren: [00:04:00] Yeah, I'm really excited to be in the Capitol and because obviously of the non Western focus attracts a really diverse range of applicants. So I think that will just be exciting as well, because you'll be studying with people from all over the world.


Kriti: [00:04:14] that's really cool. So how did you even get interested in economics? Because. I feel like it's a very male dominated field and it's something that I don't think it's not like entirely welcome to like women. So what drew you to this field? Exactly?

Lauren: [00:04:34] Well, I wasn't actually originally driven to economics.

I was actually from a really young age. I've been interested in politics before I even knew what politics meant. I knew I wanted to change things. When I was in primary school, I sat up a petition about the way our school council was run. Like I was that much of a nurse. And I joined the women's equality party when I was 12.

I am actually not a member of it anymore, but yeah. I've always been engaged in politics, but as I got older and older, I saw a massive driving force in the way things happen and inequality and suffering is actually economics. If you just think about the huge, the negative impact growing up in poverty can have on outcomes.

Compared to, if you're not. And the way that our capitalistic growth modulates is feeling or huge damage within the climate. So much of what seems like political decisions are actually driven by economics. I'm really, that's how I got into economics because I'm just really interested in using it as a tool, really, because so much of economics seems damaging poverty, capitalistic growth, but actually within that, you can also use money.

To feel positive steps. And so that's why I really care about

Kriti: [00:05:44] You are able to realize how the world is basically driven by money economics, but how you're. You're thinking about ways to actually turn it into a positive.

Lauren: [00:05:56] . I would just be too depressed,

otherwise like terrible things in the wallet would I think if I just accepted them, it feels awful. So it's really, I just do it to give myself side really. I'm quite self-serving when you think of that.

Kriti: [00:06:10] So do you want to be a politician?

Lauren: [00:06:16] I don't know. It's like, no, I'll just work on policy or influence people.

But another part of me is like, well, we do need to get people into positions of power, like in my country with the, I don't know if you've heard of it Eton, there's quite a famous. Boarding school. Oh

Kriti: [00:06:33] my God. I've heard. Yeah, I've heard of that school.

Lauren: [00:06:36] So what drives me mad is we've had only our second ever female prime minister and the person who came before her and the person who came after her went to Eton and Eton.

We've had. It's not, we've had so many more prime ministers come from Eton then comprehensive schools. And so I just think we need to have a whole range of diverse voices in politics. If that's from a class basis and economic basis, women, people from diverse communities. So whether that's me or I help someone else get there, I'm not very, I don't, it doesn't have to be about me, but we have to change the people in power.

Cause otherwise none of the really structural things like poverty or inequality will change.

Kriti: [00:07:18] Yeah. I think that's a great observation. I mean, even in the U S well, we haven't even had a female president, but besides that, all of, a lot of the presidents do come from very prestigious schools from the Ivy leagues.

No, I've not every president, but the majority of them have, or a lot of the people who are in politics, who are on the Supreme court, who are making all of these crucial decisions , who are on the Senate floor. They do not, all of them come from extremely diverse backgrounds. And it's important to have people from different backgrounds because then they're gonna create change.

Cause they're gonna, they actually know what it's like and they, they know how to effectively help people. There's a kind of analogy would be, if you have a, a woman who is trying to , who has starting a business and she needs funding. And if she tries to go to venture capitalists and all of them are men, then a lot of times I don't understand what the woman is trying to do, but say, if you had some more women in those rooms, women venture capitalists, they're more likely to invest and help this woman who was trying to pursue her dreams of being an entrepreneur. So I think that's. Similar

Lauren: [00:08:31] people can't help, but want to see help people who remind them of themselves.

We can't help it. Like if we see an ourself, a young person who comes from work to work experience, then we're more likely to give them the work experience. We know how much it values them. It was full to us. But if we can't see ourselves. Or the PA we are less likely to help them like so conscious.

They, but also if you can't see yourself in a position of power, it's really hard to aspire to be that person. And then I think that's very problematic. Especially no, especially

Kriti: [00:09:05] because most of the people who are in poverty, which is obviously not a good statistic, are minorities, are women are people of color.

Yeah. Yeah. So you're very much You're very much passionate about an interest in a specific topic within like economics, which is universal basic income. And this was the first time I heard about it when I was listening to your talk at the footsteps global gathering so I was very much blown away by this concept.

So can we talk a little bit more about the goals of this program and also the history of it too?

Lauren: [00:09:50] Yeah. So universal, basic income or UBI is it's often shortened is basically just this idea.

Well, poverty is really bad and it, and it damages people and it reduces their opportunities. It can have all sorts of knock on effects for mental and physical health. So why don't we just alleviate basic poverty? Why don't we give a government cash transfer to every person that is enough to cover their basic needs?

So, I'm sure the scale as you are aware, and that's a huge problems with income inequality in the U S this is the same in the UK. So for an example, food bank, usage there's an all time high it's mud. To me that in the 21st century, a large proportion of our population are relying on charity in order to get enough to eat.

And so the universal basic income is a no strings attached, unconditional non means tested benefit. That would be. By the government to every adult, such as them on a weekly or monthly basis. And it's very key that this has every adults. This is regardless of how much they, he or she owns partly. This is because of like inherent discrimination within benefit systems.

no matter to how you design a system. Even if it's been tested, some of the people you'll be wanting to help you can't help, but somehow miss them out. So this is a way of just ensuring every single person gets basic provision.

Now it might seem a bit counter intuitive to pay high honors money. Like why are we paying particular awning 50, 60 grand, this benefit every week. And the answer is it's actually. Partly it's to do with making it cost efficient. So if you take out the administrative burden of like working out who to pay, it's cheaper for the government, but also it's because you were basically giving people money, which is boosting up their income, which is boosting people into higher income brackets. Oh, so there's more tax. So therefore, so actually hire will be no better off for now. Before if you make the tax bracket, if you adjust the tax buckets in the right way, you effectively just using the tax to pay for a system that is likely to benefit pool cycle kind of design.

No, the idea is you pay everyone to fund it for the people who really need.

Kriti: [00:12:13] Oftentimes like a lot of people might believe that people who are receiving this universal basic income can almost. Live like, like a parasite parasite, because they're kind of living off of what the government is giving them and not necessarily that have to like work at it.

Do you know what I'm saying? Yeah.

Lauren: [00:12:35] So that's quite, this is a criticism, of UBI. What if it stops people working, what if people don't come back for work? Is it right that we're just paying for people to be lazy? You know, that's what people often suggest, and I can see why people might think that.

But part of the reason, if you look at people who are likely to get into high quality, high paying employment, you're disproportionately likely to come from a high income background. So what we're doing is we're giving families the basic amount of money to ensure a steady. Steady upbringing, steady financial , to allow for more equal access to the sort of support tutoring , stable family home. Nice that will allow people who might not otherwise be able to, to propel themselves into potentially high earning careers. Well, so the idea that this is the idea that you're not going to be living in the lap of luxury, it's just enough to allow people to come. Basic needs and not have the shoes be damaging, effective, extreme poverty.

And so it's likely that there will still be an incentive. And as you guys earlier, you know, economics is quite a gendered field. It's often very male and actually. Because it's universal, this will be something that is likely to positively impact, uh, women's employment because a high reason for female lack of engagement or seeming lack of engagement in the jobs market and employment is to do with struggles around unpaid.

Maybe they have to care for a child, child caring. So if they have this payment, this could potentially be used to pay someone to look off their child or their relative and allow them to enter the workforce. Or it might allow the the male owner to take some of the take on less hours. Partner.

So then she can go into the workforce and it's actually predicted to have a positive impact on female employment. Which I think is really interesting.

Kriti: [00:14:32] Also, uh, it would like erase the image of the breadwinner as a male in the family too.

Lauren: [00:14:39] Yeah. Cause if everybody's saving this benefit, it's not just one person bringing in the money.

Kriti: [00:14:47] It's not it's so it's not for families. It's for every single individual. I should have

Lauren: [00:14:53] made that really clear. Cause actually this is a really interesting part and it's one of the reasons I wanted to talk about it. WhyFI Matter$ because I think it could be a brilliant promoter of financial independence because in order for it to work, everyone would have to have their own bank account because it would be paid to every citizen, not every household.

So it's valuing people as individuals. It would force the government to invest hugely in financial education. Because a recent study, well, it was 2017, so four years ago now, by , the fed the federal deposit insurance corporation, which is a government agency that

found that 25% of US households were either unbanked or underbanked. That's massive. That's absolutely huge. Within this 6.5% were completely unbanked. They had no bank accounts for their house. This is actually now fallen to 5.4%, which is really positive. But to put that in perspective, that covers 7.1 million households compared to only 2 million in the UK.

And one of the biggest reasons for people stating they didn't have a bank account was because they didn't have enough money to put in the bank account in the first place for it to be worth. So first off UBI would do something to alleviate that media hardship by paying it. But also the second reason was that there was a lack of trust in financial institutions, and this was disproportionately found among women and those from ethnically diverse communities and that's unfair.

And, and that's another structural structural barrier that People from marginalized groups face and therefore it would force the government to engage with these communities and work with these communities to ensure that everyone had equal access to the financial institutions and therefore promote financial independence.

And the final thought to that I think is really interesting about it. Is by having it paid into people's individual bank accounts. I a woman's individual bank account, not the family account or the husband's account is that it promotes financial independence among women. Because again, they're disproportionately likely to not have a bank account or be unbanked, but also though there is a lot of issues around close control.

It removes the husband's immediate access to a certain proportion of her money. If it's getting into her individual bank account and ignored it, potentially this shed back account, and therefore it may increase, it has the potential to increase, you know, women's ability to live relationships and it has the potential to reduce the impact of money has a form of cost control in relationships.

The the increased right. Domestic abuse and COVID, I think is really important.

Kriti: [00:17:38] Wow. That's so cool. I didn't realize how it has so many different factors that it will help out. Like, I, I was looking like researching like other ways to help, like the under-banked population. I was telling you this via email, but you can use like financial technology, but I feel like even that it's not universal because not everyone has a phone, not everyone.

It's not based off of the government either. And I think universal basic income. It's a much better strategy because you're placing it on the government to give people money. And it's not, it's not like you need a phone tablet, you need technology. And also most of the under-banked population are in rural areas and they may not even be able to have a phone, you know,


Lauren: [00:18:26] Yeah. It requires, you know, government investment in infrastructure. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But just to say, I don't think it's us solo bullet, but like, if you think about how

Kriti: [00:18:35] many, maybe both of them

Lauren: [00:18:37] would work together, if you think about how you're going to, if maybe people don't have trust in banks, then maybe it's a way.

Kriti: [00:18:44] Yeah. Yeah. So it makes it easier to access and use financial institutions. Yeah. Yeah, no, totally. The two of them. You should, when you're a policy maker, combine the two. And we can. Yeah. So I wanted to talk a little bit about, has this ever been implemented in society before? , actually this reminds me of what centered, not saying he's not assembly uh, businessmen in America.

His name is like Andrew Yang. He was running for the democratic primaries in 2020, and he had something called one of his, like, I remember reading that one of his core principles was have a 'freedom dividend', and that was basically giving money, like a universal, basic income.

That was basically his whole goal. Obviously you didn't win any the election, but that's interesting to see how people are trying to push for this, but do you know if this has actually ever been implemented in society at all?

Lauren: [00:19:51] So, it's a part of some eight projects. There's been a real move in the developing world to move towards cash transfers because it puts the power in the hands of the recipients of the cash transfers of the money until we make the decisions with the money and that sort of really positive effects.

Then he was interested in that. There's a really interesting book called poor economics, which talks about how that has been really positive. Obviously that's not universal basic income because it's targeted to a specific group, but that's where we've seen the start of that happening. And actually there's a movement within them.

the age sort of world, potentially to move to a thing called you UBI, which is ultra universal basic income. It's the idea of giving a very minimum to people on less than $1. Uh, which is where it infesting. So that's , uh, development in the April in the Western hemisphere , Finland finished a two year study in 2019 where they gave.

And no strings attached payment to a group of participants and, and they looked at how it works. And actually their response is really positive. As a result of their improved financial situation recipients, uh, they reported increased trust, increased agency, and they sell slickness to of physical and mental health, which I think is amazing here because it really highlights how.

You know, economics and poverty, they're not your bank account doesn't exist in isolation. It has effects on the things you're able to achieve in your life and your physical and mental health. And we shouldn't be allowing that inequality, not just in economic outcomes, but in physical and emotional outcomes.

And actually just to bring that into a bit more context for the U S a lot of the cash transfers that have been going on in COVID, I think could be. It's part of a move to at least a different type of social security. So what I found amazing was despite Trump's really, you know, really populous mantra and I mean, I can't stand him.

I'm so happy he's left, but actually his some of the COVID transfers that happened during the Trump administration was thought to have lifted eight, 18 million people out of poverty. And I'm sure you've been following this correctly, but obviously Biden's announced his 1.9 trillion rescue Andre.

And this was described and I'll get the quote up. Cause I think it's really interesting. It was described by the Washington post as showering. On, in that focused on individuals and not businesses. And I thought that's a real star, uh, Biden stimulus money on America's oh, the Americans shop.

And he cutting poverty and favoring individuals. Now that sounds like the move towards universal basic income to me. I mean, it's not universal yet, but it's that move towards focusing on the individual, focusing on their agency and doing it in a way that will reduce poverty.

Kriti: [00:22:53] I feel like we're going to go into a world where we will have a universal, basic income, especially , as people are gonna not be working as much because of robots and like the machines are gonna basically take jobs, you know, and artificial intelligence. And it, I was actually, I just read an article about Silicon valley basically all the CEOs over there, every single big tech business wants a push for universal basic income because they know what they're doing. They know how AI is taking away jobs and it might increase poverty levels because, you know, and especially because now we're in the future, we're going into a world where everything is being automized. Everything is by machines. I do think it's going to be necessary. Yeah.

Lauren: [00:23:44] Yeah, absolutely. So a recent BBC report, which is I don't know if you have a BBC for them.

It's the British broadcasting. Everyone knows the BBC everyone does. I never really know.

Kriti: [00:23:58] I know the BBC everywhere. Yeah. It's probably, maybe it's like the New York times. Do you know,

Lauren: [00:24:05] is it like it's a trusted media source? So a recent report said that 47% of us employees are at risk of being replaced by machines.

And about 35% of jobs in the UK might be similar expression, which really suggests that full employment, you know, in the way that we're pushing for at the moment, this idea. It's not possible. I'm going to be, it's not going to happen. And if all those half of jobs in America are at risk of being threatened, all of Americans to work.

Yeah. I'm so scared.

Kriti: [00:24:39] I have to make sure that my field will not be machine dominated when, cause I want to work, you know, like I have to make sure it won't be, but yeah.

Lauren: [00:24:50] I think they'll always be social problems. Unfortunately, I figured it'd be nice if I did, but I don't think it will happen.

Kriti: [00:25:00] So do you think that overall, if we do have a universal basic income, it will actually make the economy grow because of like all the tax payers and everything.

Lauren: [00:25:13] I think so. I mean, it will involve touching higher on is more but actually higher on aren't the driver of the economy, the drivers of the economy, because they spend everything now and almost of what they are. So actually to have a thriving economy, you actually want people. To be about middle income honors, because then you've got surplus to spend no more like luxury things going on holidays. You're not putting it all in a massive trust fund. Right. And so what we're doing by giving people that basic income is we're giving people a stable platform to be able to reach. For the middle class or higher income, if they want, you know, they can take on more work and can put time into, they could use it to pay college fees.

So that higher education is more accessible for all to drive that both towards the middle class. Cause that's really what is beneficial for an economy. And on the other side of that, if you think about what we've just said about health, few jobs are going to be. Available as we go into the future, actually the worst thing you can do to stay current, to make it less supported, because what an economy needs is money to spend.

And if people haven't got jobs, they haven't got money to spend. So if we put with, we don't increase our support, but there's a lack of jobs, then there's actually going to be less money in the economy. Yeah, except effectively an extra income, and that will keep allowing people to spend and keep keep that providing money for the jobs that are available and haven't been automized.

So yeah, I think it's, uh, will be a really important tool in positive economic growth as we need it. It's also not, it allows us to move away from social pointless jobs that. Right. Either potentially we don't need, and then we're just making people doing pointless, not that fulfilling tasks or that are potentially damaging to the environment.

Kriti: [00:27:13] Yeah. That's cool. So do you have anything else to add because. I feel like I've gotten a good overview about what this is and how it might impact our future.

Lauren: [00:27:25] I suppose the only other thing to say is that universal basic income is not the only way to solve poverty and what we need as we go into this ever complex ever-changing world is more diverse voices interested in economics. So if any of your listeners want to get in touch and my Twitter is @LaurenMegRT.

Oh, super happy to reply to like messages, recommend books and that things are changing. So for example, the world health organization, the who have just set up the council for the economics for health for all. So that's economics that looks at boosting the global health of the world, and that's an all female And that amazing.

So if anybody is interested in some economic economist to really inspire them and go on the WHO a website and the two ones that I really recommend is Kate Raworth, who looks at sustainable economics and how we can lift people out of poverty and Mariana. Oh, I can't put, say a name and let me get it up.

And she's the chair of the I


Kriti: [00:28:30] put their names. I'll find them. And like in

Lauren: [00:28:33] that episode, even for you, if you're interested. Yeah. I think,

Kriti: [00:28:36] I think they were amazing because I'm also very interested in health too. So I'd like the intersection.

Lauren: [00:28:43] And so I guess that's the thing to add is that I think in a way economics is could be accessible for all.

If, if we make our education system might because of the way it intersects with everything and the way that it impacts everyone, you know, economics where they should be at subject fall. And I think that's really important to me. Yeah. Yeah.

Kriti: [00:29:02] This was amazing. Thank you so much, Lauren, for coming on the podcast today, I feel like this was like, honestly, One of the most interesting, topics I've, I've heard about on the podcast.

So thank you so much for sharing this with us. And I can't wait to see what you do as a politician or policymaker change maker in the world. So thank you so. Sure.

Lauren: [00:29:27] Well, thanks for having me. I think this is an amazing podcast and I've really enjoyed it.

Kriti: [00:29:30] So at the end of the interview, and it was so much fun to talk to Lauren and her passions in economics and policy, it really inspires me to learn more and like, Deep into fields that I really enjoy.

And that really interests me. And I definitely suggest that if you liked this episode, you should connect with Lauren and you can do this by DM-ing her on Twitter. And her handle will be in the episode description. Lauren and I have actually been emailing and she's. Some book recommendations. And if you're interested in these topics, one of these books is invisible women by Caroline Perez.

And you can get this book from your library and I totally suggest you do that. Or I think some of it is actually available online and like Google books, but. For me, it's harder. It's hard for me to read on like a computer, but yeah, I definitely try to get it from your library or if you want, you can buy it online obviously.

And there is another book that she suggested, which is called poor economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. And yeah, if you want to get more reading suggestions from her. And listening suggestions. You can, you totally should connect with her. Also. Don't forget to follow WhyFI matters on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to keep, keep you up to date with our latest content.

And yeah, we'd love to engage with you on that. Thanks for listening. And I can't wait to talk to you next time. .

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