Medical epistemology meets economics : how (not) to GRADE universal basic income research

Adrian K. YEE, Kenji HAYAKAWA*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


There have recently been novel applications of medical systematic review guidelines to economic policy interventions which contain controversial methodological assumptions that require further scrutiny. A landmark 2017 Cochrane review of unconditional cash transfer (UCT) studies, based on the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE), exemplifies both the possibilities and limitations of applying medical systematic review guidelines to UCT and universal basic income (UBI) studies. Recognizing the need to upgrade GRADE to incorporate the differences between medical and policy interventions, the GRADE Public Health Project Group (PHPG) was convened to enumerate and address these methodological challenges. However, in light of our analysis of additional methodological challenges that arise for UCT and UBI studies, we argue that the adaptation of medical systematic review guidelines to economic methodology is far from straightforward and is in fact more challenging than claimed by the PHPG.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-264
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Economic Methodology
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Adrian acknowledges the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and the University of Toronto FAST Scholarship as sources of funding. We thank Anna Alexandrova, Lukas Beck, Joseph Berkovitz, Olesya Bondnarenko, Andrew Jones, Isaac Kean, Christian Philippi-Larroulet, Rebecca Livernois, Soroush Marouzi, Matt Mercuri, Karl Widerquist, and two anonymous referees for constructive feedback on ideas in this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Philosophy of economics
  • basic income studies
  • evidence hierarchies
  • development economics
  • experiments in economics
  • systematic reviews


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