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Would a Basic Income Guarantee Reduce the Motivation to Work? An Analysis of Labor Responses in 16 Trial Programs

  • Richard Gilbert EMAIL logo , Nora A. Murphy , Allison Stepka , Mark Barrett and Dianne Worku
From the journal Basic Income Studies


Many opponents of BIG programs believe that receiving guaranteed subsistence income would act as a strong disincentive to work. In contrast, various areas of empirical research in psychology (studies of intrinsic motivation; non-pecuniary benefits of work on social identity and purpose; and reactions to financial windfalls such as lottery winnings) suggest that a BIG would not lead to meaningful reductions in work. To test these competing predictions, a comprehensive review of BIG outcome studies reporting data on adult labor responses was conducted. The results indicate that 93 % of reported outcomes support the prediction of no meaningful work reductions when the criterion for support is set at less than a 5 % decrease in either average hours worked per week or the rate of labor participation. Overall, these results indicate that adult labor responses would show no substantial impact following a BIG intervention.


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Published Online: 2018-11-21

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