David Calnitsky joins the Department of Sociology

November 27, 2017

David Calnitsky, joining Department of Sociology at Western University in January 2018

David Calnitsky will join the Department of Sociology in January 2018. Calnitsky completed his PhD in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

His research focuses on work, poverty, and class, as well as social policy and theory. His most recent publications focused on the “Mincome” experiment conducted in Dauphin, Manitoba in the 1970s. Mincome was an experimental guaranteed annual income project which ran from 1974 to 1979, providing residents a minimum cash benefit according to family size. The experiment ended with no final report issued by the government.

Among Calnitsky’s findings were changes in the behaviour in perception of residents, detailed in “’More Normal than Welfare’: The Mincome Experiment, Stigma, and Community Experience,” Canadian Review of Sociology. “I found some qualitative evidence for weakened social stigma, especially relative to people’s views of traditional social assistance,” said Calnitsky. “In a separate not-yet-published paper, I have some suggestive evidence showing declines in domestic violence.”

Calnitsky said it is difficult to say whether Mincome was a success or a failure. A “problem with the question of the success or failure of experiments is that there is rarely some agreed upon criteria, determined in advance, that can be used to evaluate it; and that’s because different people have different goals with respect to what is seen as a desirable outcome. The reasons people cite for finding basic income appealing really runs the gamut,” said Calnitsky. “Without prior agreement on what is acceptable or unacceptable it becomes hard to judge the experiment’s success or failure.”

Calnitsky sees potential for some issues with the basic income experiments currently underway in Ontario.

“If your objective is social scientific research, I think the experiments are really exciting, even if I have some quibbles with the randomized controlled trial approach. But if your objective is an actually implemented basic income, and an experiment is meant to put us on the path toward that end—I’m less optimistic,” said Calnitsky. “An experiment is always open to interpretation and critique, and unlike an actually implemented policy it has no constituency of beneficiaries that will defend it. I’d like to see more research on the link between policy experiments and policy implementation. “

Calnitsky joins the Department of Sociology as it works to build its research capacity in Population Dynamics and Inequality.

"I’m thrilled to be coming to Western,” said Calnitsky. “My colleagues are brilliant, and they have all been extremely welcoming. I’m really excited to get started!”