Basic Income or Caretaker Benefits?

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Feminists have long taken the position that society should commit itself to the support of individuals who care for others. In this view, governments should subsidize "caretaking units," consisting of adults supporting dependents in need of care and assistance. This article undertakes to assess a proposal for the public support of caretaking units, as set forth by Anne Alstott in her book No Exit, and to compare that proposal to the alternative of a guaranteed basic income for all. By using an illustrative example, the article concludes that the caretaker benefit is less desirable than a basic income program. Caretaker benefits reward people who engage in premature and irresponsible childbearing at the expense of those who take costly steps to prepare themselves to be good parents and to achieve self-support before having children. By flouting basic principles of fairness, the resulting perverse priorities become a serious shortcoming of Alstott's proposed caretaker benefit program. In contrast, a guaranteed income offers subsidies to parents and nonparents alike, and thus achieves greater neutrality among reproductive choices.

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Basic Income Studies