Guaranteed Income in Durham, NC: Political Feasibility Prospective

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Child economic insecurity continues to be a prevalent issue in the United States, and in Durham, NC. Grown in Durham (GiD), the childcare initiative spawned from Durham County’s Early Childhood Action Plan, seeks to address this issue. GiD used a community-based approach to determine its priorities by including local parents and childcare experts in the planning process. One of the top priorities identified was a guaranteed income pilot program to provide supplemental cash assistance to Durham families facing economic insecurity. This policy solution was chosen because of the versatility of cash benefits and positive outcomes from other guaranteed income pilots across the country, including one already conducted in Durham. Given these pilot program successes, GiD anticipates their own guaranteed income pilot would have similarly positive outcomes. Thinking ahead of pilot success, this descriptive study seeks to understand the future of guaranteed income efforts in Durham. GiD asks “what is the political feasibility of a city or county-wide guaranteed income program serving families with children facing economic insecurity in Durham, NC?” Literature review of large-scale guaranteed income efforts, interviews with local elected officials and subject matter experts, and stakeholder analysis of local municipal government systems provide insights for this policy question. The multiple streams framework is employed to determine political feasibility as a function of cohesion in understanding of the problem of child economic insecurity and the policy of guaranteed income as a solution in the context of Durham politics. Review of relevant literature illuminated guaranteed income pilot program success in generating positive outcomes for participants facing economic insecurity and analyzed examples of similar policies that have been implemented at the state and national level. Regardless of overwhelmingly positive outcomes, individual support for guaranteed income and other social service provisions is ultimately dependent on one’s values, particularly the role of work in determining deservingness of support, and acknowledgment of systemic factors. These values do not exclusively fall along partisan lines, affording a more nuanced analysis of guaranteed income support. Policies closely resembling guaranteed income employed by Alaska, a traditionally conservative state, and at the national level demonstrate this nuance. Local elected officials and guaranteed income subject matter experts were interviewed to gauge the political feasibility of a scaled guaranteed income program in Durham. Elected officials included city council members and county commissioners, and subject matter experts included administrators of guaranteed income pilot (and related) policies in Durham. An interview guide was developed to gather data in the multiple streams framework and facilitate further conversation about anything that may dictate guaranteed income’s political feasibility in Durham. Interviews revealed the perception of a high amount of guaranteed income support from both Durham’s elected officials and general public. Interviews indicated a general consensus around the understanding of the problem of child economic insecurity, guaranteed income as a policy solution, and elected official and public support of such a policy. This stream alignment is encouraging for political feasibility. Funding was identified as the main logistical roadblock in implementing a city or county-wide guaranteed income for families with children experiencing economic insecurity. Municipal funding restrictions would need to be addressed to utilize this funding source at this crucial stage between pilot success and scaling beyond the municipal level by utilizing state or federal funding. A local stakeholder analysis provides political system context through which a municipally funded guaranteed income policy would have to pass. Interview respondents also corroborated the significance of personal values in dictating guaranteed income support. Interview and literature review insights prompted the following recommendations for GiD to implement to sustain guaranteed income’s political feasibility into the future: • Advocating for the resolution of municipal funding restrictions. • Developing clear and inclusive communication about what guaranteed income is, how it addresses economic insecurity, who it benefits, and destigmatizing welfare recipients. • Intentionally maintaining momentum around guaranteed income as a policy solution (e.g., strengthening a local advocate network, periodic communications, and informational programming). The future of guaranteed income in Durham is bright, and GiD can hold the light to lead the way.





Stamper, Zach (2023). Guaranteed Income in Durham, NC: Political Feasibility Prospective. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.