Cash for Social Fix Pays Dividends

Here’s an extraordinary program that is breaking the cycle of poverty in some parts of the world:

In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses.  Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced.  Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined.  But the most dramatic effects are visible in education.  Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer.  Child labor has dropped.  In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent.  High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels.  Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.

Read the whole piece by Tina Rosenberg. If she’s right about the rate of success and the studies backing it up, then something this successful should be covered much more extensively in the media. And in places (such as New York City) where the early results of a similar social experiment (called the “conditional cash transfer” program) are mixed, it would be nice to have some in-depth reporting. The outcome of the NYC program has huge implications, according to the preliminary report:

most of the story of Family Rewards remains to be written, and it will be important to assess whether the program’s effects grow over time as families’ exposure to it increases. Ultimately, the consistency and magnitude of the program’s impacts over the longer term will determine the relevance of a comprehensive CCT [conditional cash transfer] approach for government antipoverty policy in an American context.

Now that’s a story worth covering.

2 Responses to “Cash for Social Fix Pays Dividends”

  1. DeNihilist says:

    Keith, a comment not  on the substance of the story, but on the writing used. Could you please teach your students to leave, what seems to have become the norm in reporting in the last years, this reliance on percentages and teach them to use  or at least quote the real numbers.

    If one child from that town had proceeded to middle school in 2008, and in 2009 2 students had followed, even though this is a 100% increase, it does not tell us, the reader, the truth.

  2. Dean_1230 says:

    Last night, in response to this article on another blog, I looked at it more in depth.  First, the amount of the support is minimal.  $40/month if in extreme poverty, $13/child/month only if certain constraints are met.  This amount, according to the story, makes a huge difference in the welfare of the poor.
    In the US, by comparison, we have many social programs that have few if any constraints at all.  In Ohio, for example, the WIC program is open to any one person that makes under 185% of the poverty level, and as the number of people increase, the level increases up to a maximum of 8 people in the house being eligible if the income is less than $68k.
    Now, imagine the backlash if we started implementing educational constraints on these already existing programs.  Imagine that welfare was calculated based on school attendance and grades of the kids in the household.
    With all the support programs that currently exist, there are very few in the US that are truly starving (malnourished is different than starving) or dying from exposure due to lack of housing.

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