Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Getting by with a little help

New York has started an experimental program to try to help people develop better habits through modest cash rewards.

The theory behind cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty. A person who doesn't keep up with his vaccinations and doctor's visits, for example, may get sick more often and struggle to stay employed. Bloomberg, a billionaire Republican, said he believes paying people in such circumstances to make good decisions could help break those patterns. The program "gives New Yorkers in poverty a financial incentive to look ahead and make decisions that will improve their prospects for the future," he said in a statement.

But some critics have raised questions about cash reward programs, saying they promote the misguided idea that poor people could be successful if they just made better choices. "It just reinforces the impression that if everybody would just work hard enough and change their personal behavior we could solve poverty in this country, and that's not reflected in the facts," said Margy Waller, co-founder of Inclusion, a research and policy group in Washington. |Go to school, get $25: Cash for poor NYers with good behavior - Boston.com|
It sounds ridiculous to me, but I could be wrong. The article doesn't indicate if there's been any rigorous research into the project or if all of the data on past successes is entirely anecdotal.

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