The New York Times (registration required) reports today that the Bloomberg administration plans to offer $24 million in cash incentives to encourage poor New Yorkers to take positive steps like staying in school and enrolling in parenting classes. The cash payments would range anywhere from $50 to $1,500.
There's a lot to recommend in this approach. For one thing, it recognizes the importance of incentives in motivating behavior -- an issue that we've grappled with at Bronx Community Solutions. For example, we recently learned that over half of participants who accept a voluntary referral to a job training program don't show up for their appointment. For them, a small amount of cash might be enough to make the difference. Second, the approach itself is targeted, measurable and achievable. It's a far cry from articulating sweeping and unrealistic goals, which may be rhetorically satisfying but rarely leads to concrete action.