Cash for the Poor -- Good Behavior Dollars

New York City has been in the lead in lots of initiatives that are models for other cities and that are both bold and imaginative. Working to come up with a system -- following London's model -- to restrict traffic is an excellent example. But following Mexico's experience (funded I think by the World Bank) of providing the poor with money for doing everything from passing school tests, to holding a job, to visiting a doctor is a step or two in a very foolish direction. A direction, indeed, guaranteed to be abused and to create more problems than it solves. And, what positive outcomes were to come from this will be very short term.

New York City has been in the lead in lots of initiatives that are models for other cities and that are both bold and imaginative. Working to come up with a system -- following London's model -- to restrict traffic is an excellent example.  But following Mexico's experience (funded I think by the World Bank) of providing the poor with money for doing everything from passing school tests, to holding a job, to visiting a doctor is a step or two in a very foolish direction.  A direction, indeed, guaranteed to be abused and to create more problems than it solves.  And, what positive outcomes were to come from this will be very short term. New York better have lots of money to do this (it is to be funded by private money, at least to start), because there will be lots of takers and lots of people who will learn how to scam the system. And there will be measurable results as long at the money flows.  But to think that behavior will change permanently because money is dangled is a very strange -- but not very smart -- concept.  Unless we think of the poor as Pavlov thought his dogs, and that would be sad indeed, then it is just plain stupid to assume that one group will adopt long-term the preferred behavior of another just because they were offered financial enticements.  Providing money to poor kids in school will certainly not work.  Giving them bucks for good grades and good test scores will create conflict with other students who do as well or better but who are not poor and not entitled to these monies.  It will also send a terrible message to kids -- learning is something you get paid to do, and you do it only as long as you get paid.The whole idea smacks of the missionaries' views of the natives.  It is insulting and counterproductive.  And, New Yorker, of all people, should know better. 

 

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Comments

  • VictorWu

    August 09, 2007

    Fantastic article. I couldn't agree with you more.

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