When Mayor Bloomberg proposed to test reducing poverty by paying for “good behavior”, we thought it was such a bad idea that I went on FOX NEWS to explain our concerns. It seems we had good instincts about this one.
Back in 2007, we urged the Mayor to instead use his power and influence to improve the local economy by making bad jobs into better jobs, arguing that this would be a more likely way to reduce poverty and benefit the whole community at the same time.
Plus, we noted that this approach would avoid the downside potential of reinforcing the widely held perception that poor behavior is the primary cause of poverty — rather than recognizing the impact of jobs that don’t pay enough and don’t provide benefits, not even paid time off.
Finally, we cheered testing new ideas and taking risks, especially when you engage one of the world’s best research firms to monitor results.
This week, the very qualified and distinguished people at MDRC released the first report on the outcomes of the Mayor’s initiative.
To his credit, the mayor was careful to announce the mixed (at best) results without blaming the residents of NYC. Instead, he and his staff noted that it’s important to take risks on new strategies.
“If you never fail, I can tell you, you’ve never tried new, innovative things,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
Back in 2007, we encouraged the mayor to test other ideas — like guaranteeing time off to all workers, as other cities have done.
Strengthening the local labor market by improving jobs would be worth trying now.