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Working Paper

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This work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation [1333623, Calnitsky] and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant [430-2017-00889, Calnitsky]. We would like to thank David Cuthbert for assistance navigating the Mincome accession at the Library and Archives Canada. Documents referenced are held at Library and Archives Canada (Winnipeg, MB), Department of Health fonds including the former Department of National Health and Welfare fonds, RG 29, Policy, Planning and Information Branch sous-fonds, Branch Accession Number 2004-01167-X, ‘Operational Files of Manitoba Basic Annual Income Project (Mincome).’


This paper investigates how a basic income could transform families and gender power relations within them. We draw on Hirschman’s exit, voice, and loyalty framework to argue that a basic income can offer a structural foundation for a radical shift towards more equitable family relations. This is because a basic income can support couples through economic uncertainty and reduce women’s structural vulnerability to economic dependency within marriages that strips them of exit and voice. We build our case on novel data from an understudied social experiment from the late 1970s called the Manitoba Basic Income Experiment, or Mincome. Using difference-in-difference regression with individual fixed-effects, we analyze three types of family outcomes: separation, bargaining power, and marital conflict. We find that during Mincome unhappy couples became more likely to consider separation, but that separation overall did not increase. We also find that Mincome reduced marital conflict associated with financial stressors and that some measures of wives’ bargaining power increased. Taken together, our results speak in favor of the view that a basic income has the potential to foster more equitable family lives.


This article has been accepted for publication in Socio-Economic Review, published by Oxford University Press.


basic income, family, gender, bargaining power, divorce



Date Posted: 02 October 2020