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In this review I outline the Springer published text edited by Lei Delsen (2019) entitled Empirical Research on an Unconditional Basic Income in Europe. I begin this review with a critical summary, followed by a chapter-by-chapter discussion, providing a reflection of what this text offers for basic income studiesThis text does exactly what the title suggests, in that it provides rich empirical research on ‘unconditional basic income’ in Europe. Those familiar to basic income studies will know that the abbreviation ‘UBI’ can mean ‘Universal Basic Income’ or ‘Unconditional Basic Income’ and this book draws on the latter terminology. The authors are involved in various projects and bring together data from across Europe, with some chapters focussing on cities in the Netherlands, for instance, and others Scotland, UK. As an outsider looking in on this book, there appears to be, in my opinion, strong theoretical influences from economics and psychology, with an extensive use of quantitative data taken from large scale basic income studies and experiments. There is qualitative data and analysis too, but the empirical research is largely reliant on survey research and a host of statistical analyses. The analysis is very detailed and robust, providing accessible data for anyone wanting to discover the feasibility of a basic income in Europe. The book is particularly useful for those wanting to understand which European nations, and social groups within those countries, are keen on or attracted to the idea of a basic income. The book is also very rich in terms of method, with several chapters discussing various types of ‘test’ or ‘experiment’ and one chapter dedicated to understanding selection bias when experimenting with basic income in any given society. This is a great text with sublime detail on basic income studies across Europe.The introductory chapter provides a strong context, both historically and politically, as to why unconditional basic income is important in modern times. It begins by referring to Thomas Paine’s (1976) pamphlet Agrarian Justice, which offers one of the earliest outlines of how a basic income might look and work. It provides interesting insights into how basic income’s popularity follows a ‘contra-cyclical pattern’ (Delsen, 2019: 2) whereby it grows with more importance during periods of recession (1930s, 1970s and 1980s) than in periods of economic prosperity (such as the booming 1960s). This chapter provides great clarity on types of basic income in a bygone era (e.g. the Negative Income Tax experiments of the US and Canada). The opening chapter gives a good introduction to basic income, particularly for those new to the topic. It provides analysis of the different ways researchers can evaluate the effects of basic income, from statistically measuring factors such as income, labour supply, or poverty, to researching lottery winners, to conducting attitude surveys of what people think of basic income.The second chapter is based on a large study of basic income, using survey data of some 11,021 people, from across the European Union. The study is largely focussed on measuring peoples’ attitudes to basic income. Whilst some sections are ‘number-heavy’, the chapter provides exceptionally detailed and interesting statistical analysis by gender, age, and country, among other factors. The size and detail of the research should not be underestimated – it provides valuable large-scale data of great interest to the basic income studies community.Chapter three asks: Is a Basic Income Feasible in Europe? Authors Shanahan, Smith and Srinivasan assess the feasibility of a basic income in Europe. They draw on existing experiments, such as the Finnish study, and evaluate policy feasibility of a basic income. They provide some interesting statistics on public support for a basic income, with countries Lithuania, Hungary and Slovenia more strongly in favour of a basic income scheme than countries such as Sweden, Germany and Austria. They end the chapter after looking at strategic, psychological, and behavioural feasibility. Whilst there are strong behavioural and psychological analyses to the data, there is room to develop further analysis, from ‘disciplines’ of sociology and cultural studies. There is scope to ask sociological questions as to why certain social groups think about welfare policies in particular ways – such as asking why certain discourses or ideologies might shape how people think about UBI. This may add further substance to this exceptional study.Chapter four, by author Wlliam-Danson, explores the benefits and costs of a basic income using Scotland as a case study. Scotland provides a sound environment to test basic income, since the inequality and poverty is increasing, due to factors such as low wages and precarious employment. Exacerbating this are low out-of-work benefits (deceasing in real value) and the stigmatisation of the social protection system. Wlliam-Danson provides some detailed context of the state of play in broken Britain – a country with governments which have ‘pursued a neoliberal agenda for the last three decades and more’, and a place with ‘poverty wages’ and worsening employment conditions. The situation is made worse by the fact that ‘the rich have been hiding their incomes and wealth in tax havens’, as revealed by the ‘Paradise and Panama Papers’ (2019: 91).Chapter five by Muffels and Gielens (2019), focusses on job search, employment capabilities and well-being of people on welfare in the Dutch ‘Participation Income’ experiments. The underpinnings of these Dutch experiments are well worth noting, such as the idea that financial scarcity and poverty stress reduces people’s cognitive resources and that positive welfare incentives improve reciprocity and trust in society. Some of the insights provided stem from behavioural and psychological theories of individuals, such as Deci and Ryan’s (1985) self-determination theory, and Sen’s (2004) capability theory, which respectively, suggest that ‘people engage in an activity because they enjoy it’ and that people do the things they ‘consider important for their own lives’ (2019: 116).In Chapter six, Betko, Spierings, Gesthuizen and Scheepers discuss selection bias in basic income experiments, focussing particularly on the case of Nijmegen, Netherlands. This is a great read for anyone planning to trial basic income, as it provides an excellent discussion on sampling (or selection) methods used for implementing basic income trials. In Chapter seven, Fullbrunn, Vyrastekova, and the lead author Delsen [Ed] discuss experimental economics, as a test-bed for basic income. The chapter explains that experimental economics can show the effects a redistribution system like basic income can have on society, informing policy-makers on what best decisions to take if implementing a basic income. Chapter eight, by author Kawagoe, explores experimental and game theoretical analyses of an unconditional basic income. A key finding of economic analysis of basic income is that ‘individualistic and competitive people increase their labour supply even when basic income is introduced’ (2019: 201). This chapter best rejects the conjecture that basic income makes people lazier. A wonderful end chapter to a fascinating text on empirical research carried out on basic income studies in the heart of Europe.
Basic Income Studies – de Gruyter
Published: Jun 1, 2022
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