Beliefnet
J Walking

From today’s New York Times, news of new thinking to help the poor. The concept is simple – encourage poor families get out of poverty using financial incentives to get them to do the things that will help in the process.

Under the program, which is based on a similar effort in Mexico, parents would receive payments every two months for family members meeting any of a series of criteria. The payments could range from $25 for exemplary attendance in elementary school to $300 for a high score on an important exam, city officials said.

…To be eligible, families must have at least one child entering fourth, seventh or ninth grade and a household income of 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level, which equals roughly $20,000 for a single parent with two children.

Interestingly, the funding for this pilot program is coming from private and not from public sources.

Likening the payments, known as conditional cash transfers, to tax incentives that steer people of greater means toward property ownership, Mr. Bloomberg said that the approach was intended to help struggling families who often focus on basic daily survival make better long-term decisions and break generational cycles of poverty and dependence.

“In the private sector, financial incentives encourage actions that are good for the company: working harder, hitting sales targets or landing more clients,” the mayor said in an announcement at a health services center in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

“In the public sector, we believe that financial incentives will encourage actions that are good for the city and its families: higher attendance in schools, more parental involvement in education and better career skills.”

Is this controversial? Yes. Is it guaranteed to work? No. But it is worth doing at every level. Let’s have lots of very controversial programs to help the poor. Let’s start arguments and disagreements. Why? People pay attention to arguments and if arguments are the only way to draw attention to the poor, let’s have bunches of them.

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