In an age of austerity, a time when public discourse related to healthcare revolves around which services to cut, its difficult to imagine that at one time in Canadian history, medicare was seen as just one part of a just society. The other part, was social assistance reform but it wasn’t immediately clear what reform would look like. Between 1974 and 1979 in the small town of Dauphin, Manitoba, the government of Canada conducted one of the country’s most interesting social experiments: MINCOME.
MINCOME was a guaranteed annual income field experiment targeted at the working poor. During the experiment, town residents received a minimum annual income regardless of whether or not they worked. That is, the working poor would receive their salary in addition to an income from the government. At the time, it was thought that such a system would eliminate the so-called welfare-trap which some argue dis-incentivizes the transition from social assistance to low-paying wage labour.
The experiment was cut short however, owing to a change in government and rising program costs associated with stagflation of the late 1970s. The data from the experiment was never analyzed. Now, 30 years later, health policy analyst and Professor, Evelyn Forget looks back at the data in her paper “The Town with No Poverty” to find out what effect a minimum annual income had on the health of individuals in the community of Dauphin, Manitoba. We speak with her today.[audio http://firstname.lastname@example.org/4298-1-HJRC_2012-02-21.mp3]