Refereed Journal Articles

Koebel, K., Pohler, D., Gomez, R., & Mohan, A. (2021). Public policy in a time of crisis: A framework for evaluating Canada’s COVID-19 income support programs. Canadian Public Policy, 47(2), 316–333.
Income support programs introduced for workers during the first wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns faced criticism for their negative labour supply effects. We propose that these concerns about work disincentives are embedded in restrictive assumptions about work and led to suboptimal design of crisis support policies. We describe a framework for analyzing alternative crisis income support programs predicated on more realistic assumptions of labour markets and human motivation. Our framework proposes that balancing efficiency, equity, and voice objectives should be the goal of crisis labour market policies. We argue that adoption of a basic income targeted toward low-income workers, in combination with Canada’s pre-existing Employment Insurance program, would have balanced efficiency, equity, and voice better than the combination of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. A targeted basic income would also have been more effective at achieving stated public health objectives.

Koebel, K., & Pohler, D. (2020). Labor markets in crisis: The double liability of low-wage work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society (Berkeley), 59(4), 503-531.
 ·  CLEF Working Paper  ·  Replication Files  
We adopt a novel identification strategy to examine the heterogeneous effects of Canada’s COVID‐19 economic shutdown on hours worked across the earnings distribution. Early labor‐market analyses found that workers in the bottom of the earnings distribution experienced a much larger reduction in hours worked than workers in the top of the earnings distribution. Our analysis reveals a double liability of low‐wage work during Canada’s COVID‐19 economic shutdown: while workers in every quintile experienced a large reduction in hours on average, significant increases in hours were only present among workers in the bottom quintile. Implications for crisis income supports are discussed.

Koebel, K., & Pohler, D. (2019). Expanding the Canada Workers Benefit to design a guaranteed basic income. Canadian Public Policy, 45(3), 283-309.
We design a hybrid guaranteed basic income and earnings subsidy for working-age Canadians that addresses federalism and work disincentive concerns associated with a conventional basic income by expanding the Canada Workers Benefit. We cost our program and propose a revenue-neutral financing model by consolidating provincial SA programs and eliminating several federal and provincial tax credits. We simulate the distributional effects of our program and financing on household disposable income across deciles and family types and discuss its impact on marginal effective tax rates and interaction with disability programs. Our program substantially reduces poverty rates among two-parent families and working-age singles and couples without children.

Koebel, K., & Schirle, T. (2016). The differential impact of universal child benefits on the labour supply of married and single mothers. Canadian Public Policy, 42(1), 49-64.
 ·  LCERPA Working Paper  
We examine the effects of the Universal Child Care Benefit on the labour supply of mothers. The benefit has a significant negative effect on the labour supply of legally married mothers, reducing their likelihood of participation in the labour force by 1.4 percentage points and hours worked by nearly one hour per week. In contrast, the likelihood of participation by divorced mothers rises by 2.8 percentage points when receiving the benefit and does not affect hours worked. Moreover, the benefit does not have a statistically significant effect on the participation of common-law married mothers or never-married mothers.

Book Chapters

Baker, J., Koebel, K., & Tedds, L. M. (2021). Gender Disparities in the Labour Market? Examining the COVID-19 Pandemic in Alberta. In Alberta’s Economic and Fiscal Future. R. Mansell & K. J. McKenzie (Eds.). The School of Public Policy Publications. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, pp. 48-69.

Koebel, K., & Pohler, D. (2020). Basic Income. In Reimagining the Regulation and Governance of Work. D. Pohler (Eds.). Labor and Employment Relations Association Research Volume. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 193-221.

Boadway, R., Cuff, K., & Koebel, K. (2019). Designing a Basic Income Guarantee for Canada. In Federalism and the Welfare State in a Multicultural World. E. Goodyear-Grant, R. Johnston, W. Kymlicka, & J. Myles (Eds.). Queen's Policy Studies Series. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 101-129.
 ·  QED Working Paper  
We propose mechanism for implementing a two-stage harmonized Basic Income Guarantee with federal and provincial components. In Stage One, the federal government replaces its refundable and nonrefundable tax credits with an income-tested basic income delivered through the income tax system. The reform is revenue-neutral. In Stage Two, each province decides whether to implement a provincial basic income guarantee that is harmonized with the federal one but allows province-specific basic income levels. The provincial basic income replaces provincial refundable and nonrefundable tax credits as well as welfare and disability transfers, and is also revenue-neutral. All social services and contributory social insurance programs remain intact. An illustrative calculation using Statistical Canada’s SPSD/M model shows the financial feasibility of a national BIG of $20,000 per adult adjusted for family size with a benefit reduction rate of 30%.

Other Publications

Koebel, K., & Dhuey, E. (2022). Is there an optimal school starting age?. IZA World of Labor, 247.v2, 1-9.
Is there an optimal school starting age? It depends: older children perform better on standardized tests, but evidence of older school starting ages on long-term outcomes is mixed.

Baker, J., Koebel, K., & Tedds, L. M. (2021). Gender disparities in the labour market? Examining the COVID-19 pandemic in Alberta. The School of Public Policy Publications, 14(18), 1-35.
The initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic generated large labour market disparities between men and women; however, in Alberta these differences did not persist beyond summer 2020. Instead, the pandemic continues to persistently and negatively affect the labour market patterns of parents with young children, regardless of the parent’s gender. This finding should guide policy-makers when planning for the province’s economic recovery. Using data from Alberta up to and including the December 2020 release of the Labour Force Survey, we do not find evidence that the “she-cession” continued into Alberta’s second round of health restriction measures. Instead, we find that school transitions to virtual learning, daycare closures, and parents opting for online learning resulted in profound and persistent effects on workers with young children compared to workers without children.

Boadway, R., Cuff, K., & Koebel, K. (2018). Can self-financing redeem the basic income guarantee? Disincentives, efficiency costs, tax burdens, and attitudes: A rejoinder. Canadian Public Policy, 44(4), 447-457.
We respond to concerns raised by Kesselman (2018) about our illustrative proposal on how to finance and implement a basic income guarantee (BIG) in Canada (Boadway, Cuff, and Koebel forthcoming). We demonstrate how our proposal could be adjusted to mitigate Kesselman’s main concern of high marginal effective tax rates (METRs) and argue that the incentive effects, redistribution consequences, and public opposition are not as detrimental as Kesselman suggests. We also show that Kesselman’s proposed alternate—an expanded Working Income Tax Benefit—could be incorporated into our BIG but would result in higher METRs and efficiency losses at some incomes.

Boadway, R., Cuff, K., & Koebel, K. (2018). Implementing a basic income guarantee in Canada: Prospects and problems. Collaborative Applied Research in Economics (CARE).
We outline the case for a basic income guarantee and characterize the alternative forms it could take. We argue that implementing such a program in the Canadian federation should involve collaboration between federal and provincial governments, with each level having some discretion over the size of the guarantee within their jurisdictions. We draw on tax harmonization arrangements in Canada for guidance about how such collaboration could be managed. We propose a basic income guarantee model for Canada that is sufficient to move all persons out of poverty, that is implemented through the tax system, and that is affordable. Our proposal is virtually self-financing in the sense that it redistributes existing federal and provincial transfers and does not require any tax increases. We illustrate our basic income guarantee program using simulations based on Statistics Canada’s SPSD/M model.