Income support policies could save thousands of US lives: study – The Hill

The story at a glance


  • Millions of Americans live below the federal poverty line, with rates exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Poverty is associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and all-cause mortality.

  • Modeling four hypothetical policy interventions, the researchers demonstrated how efforts to lift individuals out of poverty could result in thousands of lives saved.

More than 37 million Americans currently live in poverty according to Census Bureau statistics, with increases among whites and non-Hispanic Hispanics seen between 2019 and 2020.

Income is also commonly cited as a social determinant of health, as low-income people are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die from any cause in the United States.

Several solutions have been proposed to address wealth inequality, which disproportionately affects people of color. These include the implementation of the earned income tax credit, the increase in Social Security income and the increase in the minimum wage.

By modeling the potential health benefits of four hypothetical income support policies, the researchers found that each policy could prevent thousands of deaths among working-age adults each year compared to no intervention. The results of the exploratory analysis have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Health Forum.

The four policies modeled included a universal basic income intervention where each adult received $1,000 per month and a smaller transfer of $500 per month for those with household incomes below $100,000 per year. – this last intervention being a modified version of the LIFT law. .

The third intervention provided an income guarantee of at least 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for 1 adult (measured at $12,760 in 2019) while the last policy was a negative income tax, which guaranteed a income equal to 133% of the FPL and earned income rewarded up to a certain threshold, the researchers explained. Each policy was respectively called universal basic income, modified LIFT law, poverty reduction and negative income tax.


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Incomes were defined based on the 2020 Annual Social and Economic Supplement and CDC data was used to estimate all-cause death rates.

The adults in the models were aged 18 to 64, and the simulations estimated all-cause mortality 5 to 40 years into the future.

The researchers found that universal basic income averted between 42,000 and 104,000 adult deaths each year, compared to 19,000 to 67,000 deaths averted each year through a negative income tax.

The amended LIFT Act reduced the number of deaths from 17,000 to 52,000 each year and poverty reduction averted 12,000 to 32,000 deaths.

The models also showed that moving individuals from lower income groups to higher income groups produced more pronounced benefits in all-cause mortality.

Under the Universal Basic Income scheme, researchers have estimated that each death averted costs between $16 million and $43 million, while those numbers drop under the LIFT Act model to $3.7 million to $12 million.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency puts the value of a statistical life used at $7.4 million, these cost estimates “do not reflect any potential reductions in healthcare costs associated with improvements in population health such as those modeled in this study, or potential productivity gains”. of longevity in working-age adults,” the researchers said.

Other factors that contribute to mortality such as education, occupation, or wealth were not considered in the study, and the authors note that future research should include information on race and ethnic origin.

“Despite decades of research that has demonstrated that income is an important determinant of health, the discourse on income support policies has disproportionately focused on their economic benefits and costs, with little or no emphasis on the health benefits that these interventions might bring,” they wrote.

Posted on June 10, 2022

Julio V. Miller