It is true that poverty has become a real problem in the United States with poverty levels up past even 20% in some cities. This is a paper that I wrote about a city who has decided to do something about it, in a recent program inplemented by New York City. Enjoy.
The "Opportunity" of a Lifetime
"Experimental Program", the words send chills down one's spine. Well New York City is going out on a limb to implement such a program. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised fifty - three - million dollars, some of which is his own money, to pay parents in low - income families to do beneficial things for their families, much like parents pay their kids for getting good grades in school. Payments such as fifty dollars to get a library card or one - hundred dollars to take a child to the dentist's office are examples of the program. The "experimental" program is called "Opportunity NYC." It is based off of a ten-year program in Mexico called "Oportunidades", which produced very promising results. The program has already been adopted in more than twenty countries around the world, but is it a good idea, or is "experimental", just too risky?
The political answer is probably yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures. According to a New York Times article published in 2005, "In New York, the poverty rate rose last year to 20.3 percent, from 19 percent, making it the only city of more than one million people with a significant change. The reason for the increase was not obvious (David Leonhardt pg.1)." 20.3 percent is an astounding statistic, that means more than one out of every five people you see on the street in New York lives in poverty. The situation in, not only New York, but all over the country has gradually gotten worse since an all time low level of poverty in 1973, and is showing no signs of improving. But will this experiment work, will the mouse find the cheese at the end of the maze. If you clip a twenty to it, you better believe he will. "Opportunity NYC" is a fantastic idea to both raise awareness of the simple privileges that these families do not have, and to remedy that. Of course there are questions of it's effectiveness due to this being the debut of this program in America, but be rest assured that this idea is not as precarious as it appears.
Before the accreditation or revulsion of this program begins perhaps it should be explained a little more thoroughly. This program presents such "opportunities" as $600 to high school students and their parents for accumulating 11 high school credits a year, $400 if the student graduates from high-school, $200 per family member for having regular medical checkups, $150 a month for adults working a full-time job, $400 for adults who take certain education and job-training courses that last between 71 and 140 hours, $50 to high school students for getting a library card, and $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences (Lisa L Colangelo pg.20).
Clearly benefits such as these can definitely help some families not only with their financial problems but also motivate children to perform well in school, provide further incentive for adults to work, get trained and to ensure their children's health. Who would not get a library card for $50; two birds killed with one stone.
Parents will be doing the right thing for the wrong reason.' Even if that were proven to be true, it still does not refute the fact that this program will work. It really does not matter what mind set parents have when doing these thing for their kids, the point is, is that it is getting done regardless. Additionally most poverty-level parents if not all would probably do this for their kids and for themselves anyway, they just do not have the time or the money to do so right now, and that is where this program will flourish.
The program does not have enough money. Where is it coming from?' One of the best parts of this program is that the taxpayers are not obligated to supply a single cent. The funding for the program has been supplied entirely by a number of foundations and even the mayor himself. "The Rockefeller and Starr foundations have each donated $10 million, while the Open Society Institute has given $5 million, and the AIG Insurance Company $2 million (Lisa L. Colandelo pg.20)." Mayor Bloomberg has supplied an undisclosed, yet very large amount to the cause as well. The final amount invested was fifty-three million dollars in total, which can undoubtedly make an impact on New York poverty levels. Surely Mayor Bloomberg would not have made such a commitment if he were not convinced it would work.
Furthermore, the program has been successfully tested in Mexico for ten years. Mayor Bloomberg even visited Toluca, Mexico himself to explore the accomplishments that the program brought about there. "This was a wonderful opportunity to come and see () a program that has been successful (Mayor Bloomberg pg.A15)."Granted, Mexico does have a different culture and climate than does America, but there is no doubting that it looks promising.
A major concern of the opposition seems to be that the parents might spend the money to benefit themselves rather than their children. Despite this being a huge generalization, it does hold some truth; some parents are irresponsible and may do something irrational with their newly obtained money. In response, this is a program that is mainly aimed at helping children. Keeping them in good health, supplying them with various privileges and motivating them to perform better in school are all main goals of this operation. This being the case, it is safe to say that most of the "opportunities" presented are those that will undoubtedly benefit children regardless of what their parents do with the money.
This program will work. Low-income families will strive to do these things because of the new economic benefit that they offer. "Money makes everything really count (Michael Saul and Erin Einhorn pg.8)" as Maryann Manzolillo, Intermediate School 162, so eloquently put it. The economic incentive is not the only good element about it. It has all the components of success, being tested previously, being adopted in more than twenty countries already, and just an all around flawless design. This is what is so great about America, when an American is in trouble, another American goes and helps them out. It would not be surprising to see this program start to pop up in more places around the U.S. that need it, but for right now, New York is offering the opportunity of a lifetime. Mayor Bloomberg ensures help is on the way. " () shame on us if we're not willing to try (Mayor Bloomberg pg.A03)."
1. Colangelo, Lisa L. Bloomy To Pay The Poorest To Learn and Work. June 19, 2007. LexisNexis. September 6, 2007. http://web.lexisnexis.com/scholastic/document
2. Saul, Michael; Einhorn, Erin. Cash Is Cool. June 9, 2007. LexisNexis. September 6, 2007. http://web.lexisnexis.com/scholastic/document
3. Endo, Emi. Earning Their Way. March 30, 2007. LexisNexis. September 6, 2007. http://web.lexisnexis.com/scholastic/document
4. Endo, Emi. Poverty Help Coming. April 25, 2007. LexisNexis. September 6, 2007. http://web.lexisnexis.com/scholastic/document
5. Kelley, Raina. Dollars For Scholars. September 3, 2007. Newsweek. August 26, 2007. http://www.msnbc.msn.com
6. Leonhardt, David. U.S. Poverty Rate Was Up Last Year. August 31, 2005. New York Times. September 11, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/national/31census.html