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New York City’s three-year experiment with paying cash to poor families if they meet certain school, health care, and employment outcomes has shown promise, according to a new interim evaluation of the program. Within the first two years after its launch, MDRC, a widely respected research firm, found that the Family Rewards program, sponsored by the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity, reduced poverty and hardships; increased family savings; reduced the use of check cashers and other pricey alternative banking institutions; improved school attendance, course credit receipt, and test performance of students who were somewhat better prepared for high school; reduced reliance on emergency rooms for routine health care; and substantially increased preventive dental care.
But some important outcomes, including test performance among younger students and lower-achieving high school students and some employment outcomes for parents, have not shown improvement. The families and children are being followed for several more years to see if the initial results will last and whether additional effects will emerge over time.
On July 12, the Center on Children and Families will sponsor an event that features a summary of the experiment and its early findings by MDRC. A panel of experts will discuss the results, and speakers will take questions from the audience.