Modelling the size, cost and health impacts of Universal Basic Income: What can be done in advance of a trial?

Matthew Johnson, Elliott Johnson, L. Webber, R. Friebel, H. Reed, S. Lansley, J. Wildman

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Opposition to Universal Basic Income (UBI) is encapsulated by Martinelli’s claim that ‘an affordable basic income would be inadequate, and an adequate basic income would be unaffordable’. In this article, we present a model of health impact that transforms that assumption. We argue that UBI can affect higher level social determinants of health down to individual determinants of health and on to improvements in public health that lead to a number of economic returns on investment. Given that no trial has been designed and deployed with that impact in mind, we present a methodological framework for assessing prospective costs and returns on investment through modelling to make the case for that trial. We begin by outlining the pathways to health in our model of change in order to present criteria for establishing the size of transfer capable of promoting health. We then consider approaches to calculating cost in a UK context to estimate budgetary burdens that need to be met by the state. Next, we suggest means of modelling the prospective impact of UBI on health before asserting means of costing that impact, using a microsimulation approach. We then outline a set of fiscal options for funding any shortfall in returns. Finally, we suggest that fiscal strategy can be designed specifically with health impact in mind by modelling the impact of reform on health and feeding that data cyclically back into tax transfer module of the microsimulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-476
Number of pages18
JournalHealth Services and Outcomes Research Methodology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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