Welfare programs can be split into two categories: “income support”, or “insurance”. Basic income is, in theory, the best way to provide income support.

"We argue that guaranteed income policy is, in abstract, the best way to provide income support, meaning that our safety net could be improved by replacing some or all of the policies in this category. However, the idiosyncrasies of each program—coverage, cost, depth of assistance, and benefits calculations—mean that some existing programs may better be left in place, maintained as legacy policies, or phased out slowly to avoid harming those who rely heavily on them. Those programs in the insurance category, which provide a buffer against unpredictable and acute income or cost shocks, cannot be effectively replaced with a guaranteed income policy (though they might require other reforms). Nevertheless these policies may function more effectively when paired with a guaranteed income."