The Alaska Dividend, properly called the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), is the closest thing to a basic income guarantee that exists in the world today. It is a small, yearly dividend, financed indirectly from oil revenues, paid by the state government to every citizen who lives in Alaska—including all men, women, and children.
The dividend came about in a series of events beginning in 1959, when Alaska ratified its first state constitution and recognized joint ownership of unoccupied land and natural resources. In 1967, North America’s largest oil reserve was discovered on jointly-owned land in Alaska’s North Slope. In 1976, the state amended its constitution to dedicate a part of its yearly oil revenues to a state investment fund, called the Alaska Permanent Fund (APF). The goal of the fund was to ensure that every Alaskan would benefit from the state’s decision to exploit its oil resources, and that they could continue to benefit even after oil production ended. For the first six years, the state let the fund accrue without spending any of its returns.
Many other regions have wealth funds like the APF, but in 1982, Alaska made the—so far—unique decision to use their wealth fund to provide a direct financial benefit to every Alaskan. The legislature voted to distribute part of the returns from that fund as a yearly dividend, the PFD.
Since 1982, Alaskans have received that yearly dividend. The amount varies year-to-year depending on a complex formula of the returns to the fund. In 2008, the dividend reached a high of $3269 (including a one-time supplement of $1200 financed by that year’s state budget surplus), which comes to $16,345 for a family of five. More often in recent years, the PFD has been between $1000 and $1500 per person, which comes to between $5000 and $7500 for a family of five.
PFD Amounts by Year: This chart (reproduced from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s website) shows the amounts of the PFD each year since it began in 1982. These figures do not include the 2008 supplement
For more information about the APF and the PFD see the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s website: http://www.apfc.org