The Young Mothers Worked Less

Last week, along with over 30 groups from across Canada, PLAN hosted two webinars to raise information, awareness and support for a new Canada Disability Benefit.

One of our guests, Dr. Evelyn Forget provided us with insights on the “Basics of Basic Income.”

Here is a story about the Mincome project that she share with us:

“We’ve had two major experiments in this country to determine what the impact would be on communities that were offered a basic income. The first time we tried to experiment with basic income, we introduced an experiment called Mincome in the mid 1970s. That experiment took place in the province of Manitoba. Some families in the city of Winnipeg and the entire community of a small prairie town called Dauphin, Manitoba, were offered access to a basic income. Some of these families received the money for a period of three years between 1975 and 1978. I only wonder why the government of Canada was running an experiment on basic income at the time.

There was a recognition even in the 1970s, that income support programs in this country were inadequate, that we could do something better. But there was a real fear at the same time and the idea was that if you offer people a basic income, they would stop working. So, the purpose of Mincome was to find out whether people reduce the amount of work they do when they received a basic income. Now that program was rolled out the money was received by families for about three years. But a lot of things happened in the 1970s and one of the things that happened is the government changed. By the time the experiment ended, governments weren’t very interested in introducing a basic income anymore. So, the data was set aside for a very long period of time.

There was an analysis done in the 1980s that attempted to address the original question that Mincome was introduced to solve, and that was would people work less. It turned out that most people didn’t. Most people continued working when they received a basic income just as they had before.

But they were two groups of people who did work less. The first were new mothers. Anybody on this call, who might be old enough to remember the 1970s might remember that maternity leave in the 1970s was four weeks and a lot of new mothers thought that a four-week parental leave was a bit miserly. They used the income support to buy themselves longer parental leaves.

The other group of people who worked less were adolescent boys, boys between the ages of 15 and 19. That’s what we learned from Mincome and that’s where it sat for a long time.

About 10 years ago, I went looking for that data and I went back to look for it for a number of reasons. Mostly I wanted to know what happened to quality of life. What happened to people’s health when they received the basic income.

I started with those young boys who worked less, and I found them in my data. The reason they worked less is because they were much more likely to stay in high school and to graduate.

Instead of leaving school at the age of 16, and going to work, they graduated.  They went on in many cases to college and university and lived a different kind of a life.

My focus was really on health, physical and mental health and community health. One of the big findings was that hospitalization rates declined among people who received a basic income. In fact, hospitalization fell by eight and a half percent and that’s a pretty dramatic finding. When I look more closely, I found that a lot of the reason hospitalization rates declined was because of better mental health in the community.”