Self-isolation doesn’t have to be boring. To keep you inspired, we are passing along things that social innovators can read / do / listen to while we #StayAtHome.
COVID-19 has brought with it a lot of compelling discussions about the value of a Universal Basic Income. If you’d like to get a sense of how this has worked in the past, we recommend checking out Whitney Mallett’s incredibly well-researched piece “The Town Where Everyone Got Free Money“.
Between 1974 and 1979, the Canadian government tested the idea of a basic income guarantee (BIG) across an entire town, giving people enough money to survive in a way that no other place in North America has before or since. For those four years—until the project was cancelled and its findings packed away—the town’s poorest residents were given monthly checks that supplemented what modest earnings they had and rewarded them for working more. And for that time, it seemed that the effects of poverty began to melt away. Doctor and hospital visits declined, mental health appeared to improve, and more teenagers completed high school.
“Do we have to behave in particular ways to justify compassion and support?” Evelyn Forget, a Canadian social scientist who unearthed some of the findings of the Dauphin experiment, asked me rhetorically when I reached her by phone. “Or is simply human dignity enough?”
Critics of basic income guarantees have insisted that giving the poor money would disincentivize them to work, and point to studies that show a drop in peoples’ willingness to work under pilot programs. But in Dauphin—thought to be the largest such experiment conducted in North America—the experimenters found that the primary breadwinner in the families who received stipends were in fact not less motivated to work than before. Though there was some reduction in work effort from mothers of young children and teenagers still in high school—mothers wanted to stay at home longer with their newborns and teenagers weren’t under as much pressure to support their families—the reduction was not anywhere close to disastrous, as skeptics had predicted.
To get the latest analysis about Universal Basic Income — particularly in the time of this international health crisis — check out this blog post from UBI Works, a campaign based here in Toronto.