Audio, podcasts, & radio; Op-Ed; Opinion

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:


About Tyler Prochazka

Tyler Prochazka has written 85 articles.

Tyler Prochazka is a PhD candidate in Asia Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University in Taiwan. He is the features editor of Basic Income News and the chairman of UBI Taiwan. Support my work with UBI Taiwan: @typro

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • rob

    Crime is link to inequality that why we are seeing it raise under the western cut government culture to pay down debt which in the uk have not work. Basic income is only free money for people in work that is where the incentive is to find work. The push to get a job would come from individuals as appose a government welfare system telling you to find a job or in some country forcing you into work. People in work are free to give up their job but it they are happy doing that job they would be mad too give it up after just seeing a pay increase. Basic income should be block from any bank giving people any type of debt using the income. Only working income can be used to apply for any type of debt. That should be one of the key underpinning of the rules.

  • Dave Clegg

    Petty crime may well be attached to a need for cash and the cash from a BI could very well result in a reduction of the incidence of petty crimes such as shoplifting, theft, small time drug dealing and such. But overall crime is largely due to opportunity and an absence of personal responsibility to the law and one’s community. For many offenders the chances of being caught are slim if a person is careful and the thinking is that ‘it’s only a problem if caught’. This is all Criminology 101.

    I find it interesting that when a discussion about a BI comes up, there is so much focus on the segments of the population that are most needy of income support such as single parents, the unemployed and unemployable, low income families, child nutrition, health and well-being for example. In fact there have been endless discussions around these populations.

    But there is little to no talk about all those who will receive the BI and who have more than enough income that they have little use of a BI other than to simply have more money. Surely that is balance enough for the doubters and naysayers to stop nagging about the most vulnerable and admit that a BI that is universal is by definition equitable to all. In other words there are couch potatoes and enterprising individuals and families in every social level that will benefit from the BI.

    Let us stop belabouring the idea that a BI is about the vulnerable and the needy when, in fact, it is really about income security and the freedom for each and every citizen to have some semblance of freedom in choosing their own path in this life. The issue of ‘crime’ is far more complex than simple income security and will require far more resources and understanding before a satisfactory resolution is found.

  • carrina murphy

    Referencing the Huffington post within even an opinion piece seriously reduces an article’s credibility. It annoys me as well.

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