Panel Paper: Reducing Poverty Across Generations: Four Year Findings From New York City's Conditional Cash Transfer Program

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 3:00 PM
Salon E (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Cynthia Miller, James Riccio, Nandita Verma and Stephen Nunez, MDRC

In 2007, New York City launched Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards, an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer — or “ CCT” — program to help families break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Targeted to low-income families in six of New York’s highest poverty communities and offered for three years, Family Rewards tied cash rewards to a pre-specified set of activities and outcomes in the areas of children’s education, family preventive health care, and parents’ employment. As with other CCT programs, Family Rewards offered cash assistance to reduce immediate hardship and poverty but conditioned these transfers on families’ efforts to improve their human capital in the hope of reducing their poverty in the longer term.  Family Rewards, one of many initiatives sponsored by New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), a unit within the Office of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, is the first comprehensive CCT program in a developed country.

As described in an earlier report, the program had important effects on a range of outcomes during the first two years. The average family earned over $3,000 per year from the program, substantially reducing material hardship and poverty.  The program also had modest, but positive effects in all three domains—leading to improvements in health care use and status, improvements in educational outcomes for students who were in 9th grade at study entry, and small increases in employment, although much of it in jobs not covered by the UI system.

This paper presents 3.5- to 4-year findings from the ongoing and comprehensive evaluation. It presents program’s effects, or “impacts,” on a wide range of outcome measures, including families’ income and material well-being, children’s performance in school, parents’ and children’s health care coverage and use of preventative care, and parents’ employment and training.  The paper assesses whether the early gains persisted and whether effects on school progress emerge for elementary and middle-school students. In addition, the findings will provide a first look at effects on certain outcomes post-program, or after the incentives have ended. The findings are based on a wide variety of administrative records data and parent responses to a 42-month survey.