David Calnitsky, “‘More Normal than Welfare’: The Mincome Experiment, Stigma, and Community Experience”
This paper examines the impact of a social experiment from the 1970s called the Manitoba Basic Annual Income Experiment (Mincome). I examine Mincome’s “saturation” site located in Dauphin, Manitoba, where all town residents were eligible for guaranteed annual income payments for three years. Drawing on archived qualitative participant accounts I show that the design and framing of Mincome led participants to view payments through a pragmatic lens, rather than the moralistic lens through which welfare is viewed. Consistent with prior theory, this paper finds that Mincome participation did not produce social stigma. More broadly, this paper bears on the feasibility of alternative forms of socioeconomic organization through a consideration of the moral aspects of economic policy. The social meaning of Mincome was sufficiently powerful that even participants with particularly negative attitudes toward government assistance felt able to collect Mincome payments without a sense of contradiction. By obscuring the distinctions between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, universalistic income maintenance programs may weaken social stigmatization and strengthen program sustainability.
David Calnitsky, “‘More Normal than Welfare’: The Mincome Experiment, Stigma, and Community Experience,” Canadian Review of Sociology 53, no. 1, pages 26–71, February 2016