Will basic income lower crime?
This week, I had the opportunity to be a guest on New York University’s Students for Criminal Justice Reform podcast. I spoke with Thurston Powers about the positive effects a basic income may have on American society.
One overlooked potential benefit is the effect of basic income on crime rates. I noted that a basic income could create more stable households and increase the likelihood of parents spending time with their children. Unstable and low-income households are linked with creating long-term issues for children that grow up in these situations.
Those that critically point out single mothers work slightly less under a basic income do not understand this is probably a good thing. Considering it is single mothers in the data that show reduced work hours, it is likely they are spending their extra time raising their child. In the long-run, raising a well-adjusted adult will produce social and economic dividends.
In fact, research shows that basic income experiments have resulted in increased social cohesion. Studies have shown increased school attendance after the introduction of a basic income-type grant. In Namibia, there was about a 40 percent drop in crime in areas where the basic income was introduced.
While it is highly probable the basic income would improve some of the factors that lead to crime, I said in the podcast there is virtually no chance a basic income could increase crime. Frankly, the conservative narrative surrounding welfare is just not true.
The problem is not that welfare recipients become lazy, it is that the structure of welfare can discourage work. This is because welfare benefits diminish sharply as low-income individuals improve their wages — which is precisely why a basic income is more effective.
I also noted that most research demonstrates that overall people will not work less, and in some cases may work more if it benefits them, under a basic income. For libertarians that are interested in creating an effective solution to deal with the upcoming wave of automation, a basic income is the most efficient answer.
Listen to the full podcast below: