Wednesday, December 24, 2014


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The Call Blog: Should Poor Families Be Paid For Basic Behaviors?

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To me, the most important discovery after the first three years of this program is that many participants stopped their new behaviors once the flow of money ended. No money, no reason to achieve. If that doesn't crash this pilot program, nothing will.

In an experiment to break the cycle of poverty, Mayor Bloomberg helped to launch a program in 2007 that paid 4,800 poor families for accomplishing basic behaviors. $30 million in private funds were used to reward low-income New Yorkers for going to the doctor, working 30 hours a week, and attending school. For example, students in the program earned $600 for passing each Regents test required for graduation.

Three years after its launch, the program concluded with mixed results. The experiment showed little effect on doctor visits and test scores, but families did have more money in the bank. After revisions were made, the program resumed in the Bronx and Memphis, Tennessee in 2011 using $16 million in philanthropic and federal funding. An updated report released today found the "Family Rewards" program is succeeding in "reducing current poverty and material hardship," but is leaving "many important outcomes unchanged."

Should low-income families be awarded cash incentives to accomplish basic life functions? Are you surprised the program -- similar to giving an employee a bonus or a child an allowance -- isn't yielding better results? What ideas do you have to break the cycle of poverty in New York City?

Send your thoughts using the link above.

Hey John

it's very complicated on the part of the individual you pretty much have to reeducate. Self hate for themselves and others should be replaced with love or self and civility toward their fellow man. As far as the government goes employ people on mass scales open up the city, state, and federal jobs. Improve housing, living wage and open up home schooling.


Wanting to live healthy and knowing the importance of an education are not things you can pay people to do, this are basic ideals that should be taught to kids at an early age, at the home, in school's and church's.

Bay Ridge

One major problem with a question like this is that, in the overheated atmosphere of New York City -- especially in an election season -- is that it is too easy to sound either like Ebenezer Scrooge for opposing the program on what might be legitimate philosophical or intellectual grounds, or like a gullible, wide-eyed liberal do-gooder for supporting it, on equally valid grounds. It has to be examined in the cool, clear light of day, not in a forum such as this.

Upper West Side

Here's an idea, John:

How about "Rewarding" the working class tax payers who have a hard time making ends meet? Out tiny bonuses get sucked away (along with our salaries) due to the higher costs of public transportation, food, rents, mortgages, insurances, taxes ... we make too much money to qualify for food stamps but we're still all living paycheck-to-paycheck. I think it's time WE get a Reward just for being able to still stay in NYC -- mainly because we have no choice at this point!

Dina and Ed of Throggs Neck


End poverty by ending taxation. You should be free to keep all that you earn. But you might ask, How then do we finance all these government programs? You don't and that's the point. The only legitimate function of the government is the protection of individual rights meaning the police, the courts and the military. Everything else is fraud financed by government picking your pocket by taxation.

Port Richmond, SI

I am shocked. People are given cash rewards for regular everyday things they have to do Anyway First- why isnt this working Second - how can i get on one of those programs Lastly If you want to break poverty GOOD LUCK Like guns, drugs and prostitution It always been there And it will always be there until the time when there is no money and all our needs and wants are provided to us for our work



To change behavior, people need to learn WHY they should do something or what the benefits are of doing it. Cash as a reward seems to be in the 'give a man a fish' vein.


Hi John,

First of all it always seems as though these politicians make decisions without asking us and continue to be a big sport with our money. [ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT IS SOME DAMN NERVE] Who are the ones to make this decision? How do they choose a family? Don’t answer that = Bloomberg = all the time in the middle of everything. UNLESS: Since he has no legacy he just decided to add his name to this list if valid-and if not then I consider it a phantom list. If true then enough of these phantom donations and these families just as we had to do should take responsibility and we are sick and tired of footing the bill for everyone else and all their needs.

Thank you John,

Frankly im tired of taking care of foreigners and my fellow Americans with my tax dollars because when I need I can't never get help from the government.

Shawn. Bushwick

Maybe if poor people got paid a living wage and got medical benefits they wouldn't need to be "rewarded" for doing what most of us take for granted.

East Village

Sure, why not? Why not the working class as well to help them out?


My real reaction contains words you can't say on TV. All of them. Repeatedly. Vigorously.
Being poor is not an excuse to be stripped of your dignity. To forget that is to forget your basic humanity.


The desire to work hard and better oneself comes from within. It can not be manufactured or bought with money. Role models do help, but it can't be bought.

Chris from Brooklyn

No less govt interference it starts with family basic values

Bay Ridge

End the dependency on Government Programs. Dependency just fosters more dependency. If an individual does not want to finish school, and or lack basic behaviors, that's their choice. It is wrong to leave the consequences of other people's bad decisions at the feet of the city tax payer. I do not see any help for the working or middle class families who are being taxed to death to pay for all these social programs.

-John from Staten Island

I think that is ridiculous. If anything it is a way to keep people in poverty. What about creating jobs, educating low income people in ways to achieve their goals, give them the tools, motivate them. I believe everyone needs to use the skill God gave them to pull themselves up. There is a saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". We have all done it and no one is the exception. I believe every individual has that in them.

Upper West Side


it doesn't work the poor are not helped much by these programs. My children did well in AP courses and on regents in general and got into the program but It really didn't help. If you want to help poor people. Provide jobs ,housing and responsible child care. Reform welfare so it allows the poor mother to keep her child support and provide a rent subsidy that can pay current rents.

Poor people are not a handicap. What they are is being pushed aside as unimportant. This program is a perfect example of the disparity of wealth and lack of humanity in these city.

Stephanie from corona

People would abuse it. How about have them do jobs around the city clean the parks take out tras, This would get people out their houses and in a working mind frame


If we have all this money to bribe people to do what is needed, we could pay for education and job placement and training to the same people.

Mike from Morningside

I disagree with cash incentives that reward people of low income status to accomplish basic goals because I believe those extrinsic rewards don't ignite forward movement. Instead, they promote a false sense of accomplishment for things that many people do each day. I believe that to end the cycle of poverty, tax dollars should be distributed towards programs that promote creativity, entrepreneurship, and self-sufficiency rather than dependency on tax payers to support their lifestyles.

Caroline, Brooklyn

Tell em Mary. You are the truth! I love your comment everything you said was on point.

Precious from Woodside

I understand that being poor is terrible situation but aren't there enough Gov't Programs out there to help the people. Ex; Welfare, Housing, etc. Why wouldn't a person want stride to get out of the situation without these incentives ? This makes no sense. How come never hear about the taxpayers getting a break.

John - Princess Bay - Staten Island.

Hey John,

ask Bill DeBazio, hes the one who knows how to close the $$$ gap.

Joe, Brooklyn.


Raising a family of 4 including rent is impossible. I think providing cash incentives to high school students to pass test, for low income families to get incentives to bring their children to doctors, and most importantly, allowing parents to be able to provide food for their children is a great thing. I don't have any problems with some of my tax dollars going to help pay for these type of programs.

Children in charter schools get paid an allowance to show up at school. This gives the kids a sense of self worth and teaches students that hard work pays off

God Bless New York City.

midtown east

The working class families should be given a money incentive. Working class families are tapped out financially and working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet.


Rewards are usually short term and spurs the recipients to do better in the long-term.
Do something which will have a positive long term effect: Let's bring back employment to the U.S. from overseas.


My father dropped out of high school after his father died when he was sixteen. He left school to work to support his mother and little sister. He then went to fight the war in Korea. When he got back from the war he went to work at the trucking depots on Kearny NJ. He wound up retiring as the manager of the facility he started at. You have to work hard and want success. He is proof you can come from nothing and make it with perseverance and hard work.

Chris from Brooklyn

Why NOT? We should extend the program to cover more area for middle class, too. For example, tax credit for exercising, eating health diet, etc. We'll live a happier live and save a lot of money is everyone is healthier.

Amitorfor from Upper East Side

Stop the presses, this is not a long term solution, although it has merit. We need a jobs incentive program, and we need livable wages. I don't see a tale of two cities where opportunity is concerned. It's almost as if a certain income class of people, want to dismiss an entire segment of the population. For those who exist on the radar of commerce, and profitability, it almost a crime that working class people aren't even an after thought in these troubled times.

Michael G.

People make snap judgments who never lived in poverty. What about the NEW POOR! People who loss their employment, spent all their savings and have run out of unemployment insurance? These people are educated with Masters and PhD's, What about extending unemployment for those people who pay a lot of taxes over the years where are their incentives? I am all for incentives if it is across the board for people who need help i.e. Sandy, etc.

Miss Mae - Harlem

Perhaps the most appropriate terms to be used are "underpaid" and "overpaid." This gets to the heart of the matter because it describes the way people are valued and it is one of the underlying causes of this country's economic problems.

in Brooklyn

No.....paying people to do that which they should so naturally is not the answer....You must have the will to do bettet and do for self. Why should I depend on an incentive such as cash and not my will to do so to make me do better......


If the mayor really wants to improve the achievement levels in low income areas in ny he should put more focus & money into the public schools. The same backing he gives to the charter schools should be extended to public schools. Also, how about networking with private companys & having a work study program with these companys for high school students


The great American Travesty! May workers work 60-80 hours a week for minimum wage and still qualify for food stamps. Raise minimum wage to a living wage for starters. At least in developing countries they are not exploited by having to work and pay to be poor. They are simply poor.

Gloria - Harlem - NY

There are a lot of excuses I'm hearing from people who are proponents of this idiotic program that has been proposed.

Those who are in perpetual poverty or see the cycle of poverty being passed on from one generation to another need to reflect inward and change themselves versus looking for handouts and miracles that'll never happen.

If they want to get out of poverty then they have to assume responsibility of their own actions and stop playing the victim or race cards. That's a tired and over used excuse.


Hi John,

My parents always told my sisters and I that our inheritance was going to be our education. My parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic and did not have the resources to pursue higher education. I'm proud to say my sister has her master's degree, I'm a college graduate and the other one is a current college student. I am not opposed to the "program" but I do think self motivation is a huge factor in how successful the program can be.

Yodalis from Washington Heights

Growing up in Bed Stuy in a family of 6 people on AFDC + food stamps and medicaid in the 70's thru 80's we learned from my mom about how to work hard, go to school and save our money for a rainy day. I attended Brooklyn Tech and earned a scholarship to attend a private college on my own. My parent did not know how to help me, so I had to figure out how to help myself. I got braces through Medicaid and also worked 20 hrs throughout college. Kids need to be much more resourceful and stop acting like they are owed something. Go out and get what you want!!!

Audrey in Clinton Hill

Why should we pay people to take care of their children that is their job to take care them.

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