Support for universal basic income on the rise. Until we have to discuss how to fund it

A new survey has revealed that almost half of all adults aged 18 to 75 in the UK would support the government if it were to introduce a universal basic income (UBI).

The survey, commissioned by the IPR from Ipsos-MORI, revealed that 49% of adults aged 18 to 75 expressed support for the UK Government introducing UBI to cover basic needs, while only 26% opposed its introduction.

“The data should generate interesting analysis on the political feasibility of introducing basic income in the UK – in particular, about potential constituencies of support, and the forms of basic income that appeal to different demographics – important issues about which we currently know very little,” said the study’s author Dr Luke Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Thomas

Although the notion of introducing a UBI has been gaining ground internationally and in the UK, the study revealed a major stumbling block arises once discussion moves away from the general principles of UBI to concrete proposals about how to fund such a system.

When individuals were asked to consider UBI funded through increased taxation, support dropped to 30%, with 40% opposed, and when participants were asked to consider UBI funded through cuts in welfare benefits spending, support dropped to 37%, with 30% opposed.

In an accompanying policy brief, the IPR makes the point that a UBI paid at £73.10 a week for working age adults that replaced existing benefits would cost an additional £143 billion over existing social security expenditure and require large increases in income tax revenue, which could increase working age poverty by approximately 7%.

Under this scenario, 42% of households would see their disposable income fall.

“These new data show quite surprising levels of support for basic income in the UK, although this falls when asked to consider UBI’s fiscal implications,” said Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Mohammad Tajer. Featured image courtesy of Neil Cowburn

The IPR’s analysis underlines the difficulty in introducing a UBI that meets individuals’ needs, is fiscally viable and reduces the negative effects of means testing.

As such the Policy Brief suggests that UBI advocates should be more realistic and less ambitious. The IPR suggests trialing more modest schemes, such as those limited to particular demographic groups.

However, regardless of whether they support or oppose UBI, 34% of survey participants would like UBI to be funded by increasing taxes on wealth, while 28% would prefer to fund it by cutting existing welfare benefits.

Children’s ability to do better than their parents has as much to do with their genes as their environment

Cutting-edge DNA research from Kings College London (KCL) has suggested that whether children are socially mobile or not has as much to do with their genes as with their environment.

Previously, it was widely acknowledged that the best way to predict children’s educational attainment was to look at their parents’ educational level.

In the past, the association between parents’ and children’s level of education was thought to be environmental. However, the KCL researchers found that a child’s genes are 50% responsible for whether they are socially mobile, and can achieve higher levels of educational attainment, or not.

“The role of parent’s education in their children’s educational outcomes has previously been thought of as environmental, but our study suggests a strong genetic component too. These results show that half of the differences between whether families were socially mobile or not, can be attributed to genetic differences between them,” said Ziada Ayorech, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.

“This tells us that if we want to reduce educational inequalities, it’s important to understand children’s genetic propensity for educational achievement. That way, we can better identify those who require more support.”

The KCL study, published today in Psychological Science, used two methods to test the role of genetics in social mobility.

Firstly, the researchers used a sample of more than 6,000 identical and non-identical twins to infer what influence genes had on educational attainment.

The researchers also used an alternative method to study genetic influences on social mobility that focuses on people’s DNA markers for educational achievement, or so-called genome-wide polygenic scores (GPS).

They found that children with higher polygenic scores completed A-levels, even if they had come from families where no parent had gone to university.

The highest polygenic scores were found in children that were raised in families with a university-educated parent, while the lowest scores were reserved for those whose parents did not attend university.

“Finding genetic influences on social mobility can be viewed as an index of equality, rather than inequality. The reason is that genetics can only play a significant role for children’s educational attainment if their environmental opportunities are relatively equal,” Dr Sophie von Stumm, senior lecturer at Goldsmiths University of London.