Abstract: Human Again: The Experiences of Ontario Basic Income Pilot Recipients (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Human Again: The Experiences of Ontario Basic Income Pilot Recipients

Friday, January 17, 2020
Independence BR H, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Leah Hamilton, PhD, Associate Professor, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC

Families in need of public assistance are often subject to ineffective work requirements, asset limits that disincentivize savings, onerous application processes, intrusive limits on childbearing, and unconstitutional drug testing. Basic income activists argue that a universal benefit to all families would remove these types of paternalistic and counterproductive eligibility rules and better facilitate long term economic mobility among vulnerable households.


This phenomenological analysis involved qualitative, semi-structured interviews with basic income pilot recipients in Ontario, Canada whom had previously received traditional welfare assistance. Phenomenological research most frequently involves three to ten participants (Dukes, 1984). Sample saturation (Yin, 2015) was reached for the current study at five participants. Questions explored included: What do recipients do differently on basic income as compared to traditional welfare? How does this change affect one’s psychological and physical well-being? And what are the effects to their long term planning? Line by line hand coding for “significant statements,” as prescribed by the phenomenological method, was completed in order to extract detailed descriptions of the phenomenon and discover underlying meaning (Creswell, 2013). Credibility was established via adherence to phenomenological protocol, bracketing (Creswell, 2013), sampling saturation, negative instances (Yin, 2015), and member checking, which is described by Lincoln and Guba (1985, p. 314) as “the most critical technique for establishing credibility” in qualitative research.

Results & Implications

Results indicate multiple parallels with previous research among welfare and basic income recipients including a desire among participants to work and be financially independent, but that the conditionality of traditional welfare programs had significant negative repercussions including work disincentives and deleterious bureaucratic hurdles. Respondents also reported that basic income has improved their nutrition, physical and mental health, housing stability, and social connections; and better facilitated long term financial planning and independence.