The Cake

The Significance of Andrew Yang’s $1,000 Plan

Despite what many may believe, it’s not just about the money

Laura Huang
ZORA
Published in
5 min readSep 11, 2019

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Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

AAndrew Yang’s plan to provide $1,000 in government-sponsored payments to every American adult each month — an “allowance for grown-ups,” as some have called it — is being touted as a big, bold idea. It’s not without criticism, however, as others have claimed that this type of universal basic income might incentivize people not to look for work.

Yang counters by saying that people will still be incentivized to get jobs and contribute to the economy — that $12,000 per year is still not enough for most people, and that it is instead a catalyst that will spur people to want to do more. But there is something more to it that even Yang himself may not be seeing the magnitude of, or if he does, may not be placing enough salience on: It is his way of giving everyone the startup capital they need for their “Startup of Me.”

II believe Yang came to this understanding a long time ago. Universal basic income is not a recent revelation of his, nor a big, bold idea. It need not be. Yang already started a dress rehearsal of the plan years ago. And whether he knows it or not, it has already had ripple effects.

Yang and I met almost seven years ago. We were on a judging panel together at a startup pitch competition where a grand prize of $10,000 would be awarded to whomever we decided was the top entrepreneur (actually, to be precise, $9,000 was awarded to the winner, and $1,000 was awarded based on the “audience favorite.”) After listening to all the pitches, all eight of the judges, including Yang and myself, went backstage to deliberate.

Second chances are one of the biggest hurdles for those who are disadvantaged. They just don’t receive them.

For whatever reason, there was a quick consensus amongst six of the judges on who the winner should be — an artisanal beverage company. But two judges — Yang and myself — found a different startup to be far more compelling, a company with a mission to improve philanthropic capital allocation through research and analysis. After quite a bit of discussion among the judges, it was clear…

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Laura Huang
ZORA
Writer for

Professor, Harvard Business School. Author, EDGE: Turning Adversity into Advantage (Jan 2020). Researcher, #inequality, #disadvantage, #bias, #entrepreneurship