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Luke Martinelli, “Addressing the evidence deficit”

Luke Martinelli is a research associate for the universal basic income project of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath. In March 2017, Martinelli published the working paper “The Fiscal and Distributional Implications of Alternative Universal Basic Income Schemes in the UK”, which uses simulation techniques to examine the effects of four revenue-neutral basic income schemes for the UK on poverty and inequality.

Accompanying the release of this 46-page working paper, Martinelli also published a shorter blog post, focusing on some of the methodological issues underlying his decision to conduct simulation studies.

As Martinelli describes in the post, empirical evidence concerning the effects of basic income can be sorted into two main types: ex-post (“after the fact”) and ex-ante (“before the event”).

Ex-post evidence includes the results of pilot studies and experiments specifically designed to test some of the effects of introducing a basic income, as well as observational studies of related policies such as Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend. Martinelli points out that experimental studies are limited in their ability to forecast the effects of a basic income. For example, trials are limited in duration (whereas a basic income would be lifelong) and are influenced heavily by the specific contexts in which they are implemented, constraining the applicability of their results to other contexts. Moreover, the policies analyzed in both experimental and observational studies often diverge from full-blown basic income schemes in key respects.

Ex-ante evidence, in contrast, is exemplified by microsimulation–the technique used in Martinelli’s working paper–which uses computing methods to simulate any of a number of tax and benefit reforms. While microsimulation predict the fiscal and distributional consequences of a broad array of possible policies, it has other limitations; for instance, it does not shed light on the behavior effects of basic income (or other policies) or take account of such effects in prediction. Thus, Martinelli believes that ex-ante evidence must complement, rather than replace, ex-post evidence.

Martinelli’s forthcoming paper “Exploring the Distributional and Work Incentive Effects of Plausible UBI Schemes” will further examine the “distribution of winners and losers” under UBI, again using microsimulation techniques.


Read the full post:

Luke Martinelli, “Addressing the evidence deficit: how experimentation and microsimulation can inform the basic income debate,” IPR blog, March 13, 2017.

Reviewed by Cameron McLeod

Photo CC BY 2.0 Michael Greenberg

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 505 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

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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.

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