Potential Effects of Universal Basic Income: a Scoping Review of Evidence on Impacts and Study Characteristics

Gibson, M. , Hearty, W. and Craig, P. (2018) Potential Effects of Universal Basic Income: a Scoping Review of Evidence on Impacts and Study Characteristics. The Lancet 392(S2):S36. Meeting abstract: Public Health Science 2018, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 23 Nov 2018. (doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)32083-X)

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Background: Unconditional basic income is seen as a potential solution to decreasing job security and predicted automation of many routine jobs. The importance of upstream health determinants suggests that basic income could improve health and reduce health inequalities. Since the effects of a universal, permanent basic income would differ from those of a trial, extrapolation of impacts from existing evidence is difficult. However, studies of interventions that unconditionally provide substantial, regular payments to individuals or families can provide insights into the potential effects. We conducted a scoping review to identify and synthesise evidence that could inform the planning stage of potential basic income pilots in Scotland. Methods: We searched eight bibliographic and eight specialist databases for articles published in English from database inception until April, 2017 (initial searches), and November, 2017 (later iteration). We included randomised controlled trials, quasi-experiments, qualitative studies, and controlled before–after studies reporting any outcome of unconditional payments for low-income people or the general population. Studies conducted in low-income countries were excluded. Initial searches indicated that there were important studies of other interventions, so relevant search terms were incorporated in further iterative searches. Results were screened by one reviewer and a second reviewer checked a 10% sample. Data were charted and thematically analysed, following recognised scoping review approaches. Findings: From 1591 papers identified, we included 28 studies of ten interventions implemented in a range of contexts that used various evaluation methods. The interventions were heterogeneous, but some were universal and permanent, and all provided substantial, regular payments unconditionally. Studies measured effects on employment, health, education, crime, and other social outcomes. Evidence on health impacts was mixed, with some studies finding strong positive impacts on outcomes such as birthweight and mental health, whereas others reported no effect. There was some evidence that effects were stronger in more at-risk groups. Most studies reported little impact on labour market participation. Interpretation: Fears of a large decrease in labour market participation due to basic income seem to be unfounded, but inference was often hampered by small samples or multiple intervention arms. Further small-scale pilots would be of limited usefulness.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:Funding: What Works Scotland (ESRC ES/M003922/1, SPHSU15, and Scottish Government).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Craig, Professor Peter and Gibson, Dr Marcia
Authors: Gibson, M., Hearty, W., and Craig, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
664051What Works ScotlandNicholas WatsonEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/M003922/1SPS - INST. OF HEALTH & WELLBEING
727671Informing Healthy Public PolicyPeter CraigMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/15HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit