In the land of opportunity, the widening levels of wealth inequality are undeniably holding many back. A new proposal from economists takes aim at that—and today’s newborns would be the first to see the benefits when they reach their 18th birthdays.
The big idea? Baby Bonds, which would provide newborns with bonds ranging from $500 to $50,000 depending on their parents’ income. When the little ones reach adulthood, they could then apply the matured bond money to paying for college, buying a home or stating a business.
Suggested by Darrick Hamilton of the New School and William Darity of Duke University at the American Economic Association conference this past weekend, the economists say Baby Bonds would “help produce a more equitable and just society.”
The money would be distributed at birth on a sliding scale—with children of the wealthiest families receiving $500 and children from lowest income families receiving $50,000. Children from average middle-class families would bank $20,000.
“Baby Bonds are like Social Security, but for young adults,” Hamilton tell The Washington Post. “This is not meant to replace our entire social safety net.”
Hamilton predicts the program would cost the government $80 billion annually. But because the first payments wouldn’t be distributed for at least 18 years, there would theoretically be time to account for the expense in the federal budget.
Eighteen years may not be long enough to come up with that much money, other experts say. Among them is economist Veronique de Rugy, a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center, who also expresses concerns to The Washington Post about the “paternalistic” regulations on how the money could be spent.
If those problems can be sorted through, the benefits would be huge, Hamilton says. He notes that wealth inequality continues to disadvantage millions of Americans—as data from the past three decades shows that, in general, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer.
“Wealth gives you choice. Wealth gives you freedom. Wealth gives you opportunity,” Hamilton says. “But it takes wealth to beget more wealth.”