The town with no poverty: Using health administration data to revisit outcomes of a Canadian guaranteed annual income field experiment
While income security is a well-known determinant of health, the precise correlations are less documented. This study re-visits the outcomes of a guaranteed annual income (GAI) field experiment (MINCOME) carried out in Dauphin, Manitoba in the mid-1970s. As no final report and little data analysis came out of the federally-sponsored MINCOME experiment, Forget instead analyzed routinely collected health administrative data of both Dauphin residents and a well-matched comparison group to examine the health and social impacts of GAI. MINCOME was unique in having a “saturation site,” meaning every family in Dauphin who met the income guidelines was eligible for a supplement relative to Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-off, a factor which both increased the health and social impacts of the experiment as well as making it easier to retrieve and analyze data.
Forget found an overall decline in hospitalizations and physician contacts – specifically hospitalizations for accidents, injuries and mental health diagnoses – for participants in the MINCOME experiment, relative to the comparison group. Given that only a third of families qualified for GAI support at any one time during the MINCOME experiment, and many of these supplements were small, the overall community impact was larger than expected. The study attributes this wider impact to a social multiplier effect: because Dauphin was a “saturation site,” recipients would have helped change overall social attitudes and behaviors of individuals and families not receiving a supplement.
Additionally, Forget notes the GAI supplements offered economic stability and predictability for an agriculturally dependent town with high levels of self-employment. This social benefit resulted in a greater proportion of high school students continuing their studies rather than going directly into paid work.
The results of this study indicate the potential for a relatively modest GAI to improve population health, as well as the value of historical health administrative data.
Use this resource to
- Learn more about an unusual social experiment that set out to track the impacts of stable income within a community on health
- Facilitate a discussion about the correlation between income security and health
- Demonstrate the potential for a GAI to improve population health
Forget, E. (2011). The Town With No Poverty: Using Health Administration Data to Revisit Outcomes of a Canadian Guaranteed Annual Income Field Experiment. University of Manitoba. Retrieved from?