Last night I attended a lecture at The Hamilton Spectator with my daughter Charae. She was there to take notes for a school newspaper article (and to keep her dad company). The lecture featured the results of Evelyn Forget (Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba) research on a social experiment that was conducted in Dauphin, Manitoba between 1974 and 1978. Every family in the town of 10,000 was guaranteed a minimum income of 60% of the low income cut-off. The primary interest of the original work was to see how this would impact the labour market in the community. In that regard, it seems to have had little effect.
In going back over the data that had been squirreled away, Dr. Forget did notice two social impacts for that time period that were notable. The first was that high school graduations increased notably during that period. The conclusion she drew was that families having a minimum income guarantee felt less pressure to move their grade 11 students into the workforce. The second conclusion was that the number of hospital visits declined during this period as well for the group studied.
She explained that under welfare programs at that time, if you worked at all, your support was dropped (mostly). With the guaranteed minimum income (Mincome) you could work at a low-paying job and, if it paid less than the income cut-off percentage, you would have your wages topped up rather than having your support turned off if you earned anything at all.
Four similar tests were done in the US but the Dauphin site was the only community that represented a saturation site, i.e. every family could apply for and receive support as long as they met the minimum requirements.
I asked about how much the program cost vs how much was saved by decreased hospital visits, students finishing high school, etc. She said that was still in the process of being figured out but her work thus far would lead her to believe that it would be far less expensive than the current arrangement we have today. People can work but if all they can find is a low-paying job, they are able to work and receive support for the gap that remains.
When the money disappeared, graduation and health visits seem to have moved back toward where they were, though the question about how group that benefited from the program turned out in the long haul was difficult to answer. She said many people had contacted her to say how much the program had helped them but, as she pointed out, that kind of self selection usually means you hear from those who did well rather than from the people who may have gone to prison.
Universal health care came fully online in while a minimum income did not. An interesting historical note from the Canadian landscape. This research tells us what was the case but not what will be the case or what effect such a move might have today. Apparently there were 1800 boxes of forms, questionnaires, anthropologists reviews, sociologists reports, and material of that nature for her to go through—warehoused and waiting for the right person to come along. Though I have a real love for research, that sort of tedium would have gotten the best of me.