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Environment

Cash for Social Fix Pays Dividends

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJanuary 4, 2011 8:58 PM

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Here's an extraordinary program that is breaking the cycle of poverty in some parts of the world:

In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced. Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined. But the most dramatic effects are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels. Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.

Read the whole piece by Tina Rosenberg. If she's right about the rate of success and the studies backing it up, then something this successful should be covered much more extensively in the media. And in places (such as New York City) where the early results of a similar social experiment (called the "conditional cash transfer" program) are mixed, it would be nice to have some in-depth reporting. The outcome of the NYC program has huge implications, according to the preliminary report:

most of the story of Family Rewards remains to be written, and it will be important to assess whether the program's effects grow over time as families' exposure to it increases. Ultimately, the consistency and magnitude of the program's impacts over the longer term will determine the relevance of a comprehensive CCT [conditional cash transfer] approach for government antipoverty policy in an American context.

Now that's a story worth covering.

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