Posted on September 9, 2013 · Posted in Frank Friday, P-cubed News

I hope you’ve had a great start to the semester! I’d like to use this space every week to talk about a policy challenge that we face. The questions that many of us constantly struggle with are what are some sensible options for policy makers to create greater social justice in our society? And secondly, what can we do, as engaged and aware members of the community, to press for greater social change? Keep these two questions in mind as you go about your day and grapple with complex social, political and economic realities that we face globally.

Listening to the mayoral debates over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about solutions to address deeply entrenched and intergenerational poverty. Can programs that give cash to the poor help to reduce poverty? A recent article in the New York Times gives a great overview of successful global programs that provide money to the poor that come with conditions, known as conditional cash transfers, and those that give money with no strings attached – unconditional cash transfers – where recipients are free to use the funds however they wish.

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg in 2007 embarked on a Conditional Cash Transfer Program known as Opportunity NYC as part of his antipoverty initiatives that would help to increase income in poor households. The program was designed to study whether providing cash to poor families would improve outcomes along three dimensions: education, health, and work. The results came back mixed. And this is the sticking point. Why didn’t it work uniformly? Is giving cash to the poor sound public policy if it is not accompanied by large-scale structural change and investments – public and/or private – that address glaring racial and economic gaps in education, health, housing, jobs, etc.?

Join the debate on how poverty can be best addressed. Share your ideas on good policy solutions. Follow me on Twitter: @DrSVenkateswar and Like us on Facebook: P-Cubed at Roosevelt House.

Enjoy your week!

With my best wishes,