March 30, 2010

Carrots without sticks

From the New York Times, an article on an experimental program in NYC that had been very popular among economists: using carrots (but no sticks) to get the poor to behave better.
City to End Program Giving Cash to the Poor

An unusual and much-heralded program that gave poor families cash to encourage good behavior and self-sufficiency has so far had only modest effects on their lives and economic situation, according to an analysis the Bloomberg administration released on Tuesday.

The three-year-old pilot project, the first of its kind in the country, gave parents payments for things like going to the dentist ($100) or holding down a full-time job ($150 per month). Children were rewarded for attending school regularly ($25 to $50 per month) or passing a high school Regents exam ($600).

When the mayor announced the program, he said it would begin with private money and, if it worked, could be transformed into an ambitious permanent government program.

But city officials said Tuesday that there were no specific plans at this time to go forward with a publicly financed version of the program. In an announcement at BronxWorks, a nonprofit social services agency, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pointed to a few examples of success: High school students who met basic proficiency standards before high school tended to increase their attendance, receive more class credits and perform better on standardized tests; more families went to the dentist for regular checkups.

But the elementary and middle school students who participated made no educational or attendance gains. Neither did high school students who performed below basic proficiency standards before high school. ...

The program was certainly expensive: Mr. Bloomberg and Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services, traveled to Mexico to learn more about Oportunidades, the welfare program there on which the New York City effort was based.

About $40 million in private donations, including from Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation, was collected to finance the effort, called Opportunity NYC Family Rewards. Two years into the program, more than $14 million had been paid out to 2,400 families. An additional $10.2 million is for operating costs, and $9.6 million for research and evaluation.

So, poor people got $14 million and middle-class administrators and researchers got $19.8 million? And what happened to the other $6.2 million in donations?

While most behavioral changes were not large, the cash provided to the families had a short-term effect: Those who participated earned, on average, more than $6,000 a year in the first two years. Largely as a result, those participating families were 16 percent less likely to live in poverty.

The families used the money to pay for basic living expenses, school supplies, electronic equipment and going to the movies, among other things.

More than 80 percent of the families were led by a single parent, 43 percent had three or more children and just over half of the parents held jobs. All lived in low-income areas in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan....

Ms. Gibbs said many families had been perplexed by the guidelines that were laid out for them. Cash payments were eventually eliminated for actions like getting a library card and follow-up visits with a doctor.

“Too many things, too many details, more to manage in the lives of burdened, busy households,” Ms. Gibbs said, standing next to the mayor on Tuesday. “Big lesson for the future? Got to make it a lot more simple.”

A good lesson to learn.

The city has been somewhat sensitive about the results of the program. Ms. Gibbs and other city officials cautioned that the report released on Tuesday reflected only initial results, and said that they were in line with other early results from similar conditional cash transfer programs in Latin America.

A program in Mexico that bribes peasant moms to not pull their kids out school and put them to work after 4th grade in the fields but instead keep them in school through 8th grade so they can learn enough math to be carpenters would appear to be less vulnerable to diminishing marginal returns. In contrast, a program in America where a goal is, say, to keep kids from dropping out after 10th grade and have them learn enough math in 11th and 12th grade to get a fancy Regents' diploma would have a big diminishing marginal returns challenge.

On international tests of schoolchildren, Mexican-Americans average quite a bit higher scores than Mexicans, which suggests that Mexico has a long way to go to improve education. By the way, Mexico has a single national schoolteachers' union that is so powerful that teachers' jobs in government schools are becoming hereditary. Mexico has been like the old Soviet joke about how they pretend to teach us and we pretend to study.

But the whole concept of diminishing marginal returns appears to be off limits for thinking about education.

“There have never been these overnight, miraculous turnarounds,” Ms. Gibbs said. “These are programs that are working on deeply entrenched, long-term behaviors.”

One Brooklyn family who participated in the program said they collected more than $7,610 in two years. Janice Dudley and her 16-year-old daughter, Qua-neshia Darden, of East New York, said they received rewards for school attendance, good test scores and receiving regular medical checkups.

How much would it cost to bribe new mothers not to name their daughters "Qua-neshia?" Whatever it costs, it would probably be worth it. What employer could read the name "Qua-neshia" on a resume without betting that if he hires her, she'll sue for racial discrimination the first time she doesn't get the promotion she wants?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

"An unusual and much-heralded program that gave poor families cash to encourage good behavior and self-sufficiency [...]"

This does not compute. While the program's aim is most certainly to encourage good behavior--and the success or failure of such an endeavor should be judged independently of whether, for instance, I find it tragicomic that we have at long last apparently resorted to bribing our underclass, as one would with a child, into conforming to the most basic standards of modern Western society--the act, in itself, of simply giving money to people is conspicuously antithetical to the goal of such people's attaining self-sufficiency.

Damn It said...

We. Are. Doomed.

Anonymous said...

Qua-neshia Darden

OMG!

Anonymous said...

Re Qua-neshia Darden.

We could bribe mothers to call their Qua-neshia, Emily or Chloe instead - but would that change anything else? Wouldnt they still end up sueing employers for discrimination down the line?

l said...

"While payments to the families will end in August, researchers will continue to monitor them for three more years, to see if any behavior encouraged by the initial payments will continue. A final report will be issued in 2013."

(Looking in my crystal ball) here's a preview of the report conclusion: "For the most part, the behaviors we had hoped would continue did not. This underlines the need for continuous cash incentives."

Anonymous said...

The kind of people the program tried to help get bigger incentives from the system to be losers.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of the lab rat who gets a reward every time he hits a lever. If the rewards stop coming, he quits hitting the lever.

holmegm said...

So, now we pay people to go to the doctor ... then of course we also pay their way at the doctor.

Because it was too hard for them to just go on our dime ... we have to also pay them go and spend our dime, because it's too much work for them???

I guess you could try to find a better way to demoralize those of us who live more rational lives, but you'd be hard pressed to do so :(

Anonymous said...

"How much would it cost to bribe new mothers not to name their daughters 'Qua-neshia?' Whatever it costs, it would probably be worth it. What employer could read the name 'Qua-neshia' on a resume without betting that if he hires her, she'll sue for racial discrimination the first time she doesn't get the promotion she wants?"

I suspect that a Qua-neshia, by any other name, would still have a bad attitude.

And the way things are now, when you call some institution and "Qua-neshia" answers the phone, you can save yourself some time and immediately hang up the phone.

rob said...

Steve, you say carrots without sticks like it's a bad thing. Welfare for good behavior is a rear-guard action for conservatives. It's not like the "progressives" and their ethnoracial allies will ever end transfer payments to their constituents or allow sticks.

The carrots help align the dependent classes behavior with policy goals. White liberals want that too. With our new socialized medicine, soon the Preciouses of the world will get paid to take their diabetes meds. Maybe we can pay them to delay childbearing too.

So, poor people got $14 million and middle-class administrators and researchers got $19.8 million? And what happened to the other $6.2million in donations?

Administrators! Of course, scale this program up and there are a bunch of jobs of for white women who voted for Obama to take of NAMs instead of having and raising their own children. I also have the feeling that

I remember speculating on what sort of society could have very dim, short sighted people who can't produce as much as they consume...The end was unpleasant. If Oportunidades del Norte can get less capable minorities to function better, it could hold off a reckoning for a generation.

allow On international tests of schoolchildren, Mexican-Americans average quite a bit higher scores than Mexicans, which suggests that Mexico has a long way to go to improve education.

I wonder why? That's actually quite impressive since we get underperforming peasants, and educate them in a foreign language in largely black schools.

Are we getting the more capable and ambitious of the lower-middle class? That doesn't really square with the hispanic dropout rate. They don't value education(beyond their abilities for its own sake).

Is it because Mex-Ams have higher incomes? If so, that points to a threshold standard of living/home environment where environment really counts. Or is it simply because Mexico does education so badly that American public schools look good in comparison?

I actually attribute purer motives to NCLB and the newest equalize academic achievement that will fail than most stevoids. For a long time the babbling classes took the position that we knew how to uplift blacks and hispanics. They claimed we didn't do it because we didn't want to. With the white boomers retiring, and the schools almost half-filled with blacks and hispanics, they're hitting the Wiley Coyote Moment of demography. We're already over the cliff, but if we don't look down...

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the grass roots/spontaneous flash mobs of blacks in Philadelphia descending on nonblack areas to vandalize, rob, and hurt people. Hopefully I'm just a paranoid, but if it becomes a trend...

Big Bill said...

"Janice" named her daughter"Qua-neshia"?

Sounds like a family and culture on a downward spiral.

If my daughter "Janice" told me she was preggers by La-troshus and was going to name my first grandbaby Qua-neshia, I would drop to the floor and sit shiva.

I swear, black folks have done gone crazy since since the sixties and all that free money.

And here Bloomberg, a genuine card-carrying Jewish liberal, is trying to start with the free money all over again.

It is the curse of modernity, as Julius Evola understood.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking a lot lately about interethnic wealth transfers. The health bill cuts Medicaid from (predominantly white) seniors and gives it to the young uninsured, who are more likely to be minorities. Here in NJ in the name of balancing the budget the new Republican gov has cut state aid to white suburbs (meaning higher local property taxes) but left poor minority districts relatively untouched. On top of that, a portion of local taxes always goes to the county anyway, so middle-class whites are both losing state funding while simultaneously paying taxes to the nonwhite parts of their counties. Obama's upholding affirmative action in UT Austin which means of course more transfers of tax dollars to (by definition) under-performing minorities. Etc etc. I'm sure there's a thousand other examples out there.

So what's behind this? Are they trying to buy young votes by creating an entitlement culture? Are they trying to pay off young nonwhites to avert France-style unrest? Do they really think they're going to "level the playing field?" Or are they just under enormous pressure from minority rights groups to "do something" and payouts are the easiest thing to do because who can argue with that?

I knew we'd get to the point eventually where a declining and aging white population wouldn't want to fund an undereducated and resentment nonwhite younger population. Granted, programs like Bloomberg's are free to do what they want since they're charities,
but they would have done more net good by helping out responsible homeowners in Queens or Staten Island stave off foreclosure or pay down property taxes.

Mr. Anon said...

"So, poor people got $14 million and middle-class administrators and researchers got $19.8 million? And what happened to the other $6.2 million in donations?"

The NYT reporter probably never even noticed that those numbers don't add up to 40 million, and even if he did, was too lazy to ask what became of the balance. I get the impressions that most journalists are incurious, dull-minded people.

"Ms. Gibbs said many families had been perplexed by the guidelines that were laid out for them. Cash payments were eventually eliminated for actions like getting a library card and follow-up visits with a doctor."

Were they getting library cards over and over again and scheduling needless doctors appointments just in order to get paid?

Udolpho.com said...

just call it an allowance

let's face it, blacks are our children, and need to be treated as such

Black Death said...

"How much would it cost to bribe new mothers not to name their daughters "Qua-neshia?"

How about bribing them not to have little Qua-neshia's in the first place? If you really want to get the most bang for your bucks, give these women a nice cash reward every six months for having a negative pregnancy test, plus a big cash bonus for tubal ligation.

L. V. said...

A program in Mexico that bribes peasant moms to not pull their kids out school and put them to work after 4th grade in the fields but instead keep them in school through 8th grade so they can learn enough math to be carpenters would appear to be less vulnerable to diminishing marginal returns.

Oh please please please please PLEASE let me reply to this.

I've been in the doghouse for so long.

It's getting lonely out here.

OhioStater said...

Off-topic, but I knew you'd get a kick out of this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/books/31covers.html?hp

Basically, it's harder for (white) people to see your good literary taste if they can't see the cover of your book, if you are reading on a Kindle, iPhone, or iPad.

These people are losers!

John Derbinsteer said...

But Qua-nesia will sue for racial discrimination. She will sue for sexual discrimination too. And anything else she can sue for.

If Qua-nesia did not exist, trial lawyers would have to invent her.

mickeyc said...

"Mexico has a single national schoolteachers' union that is so powerful that teachers' jobs in government schools are becoming hereditary"

What is your source for this?

It is taking unionism to a whole new level.

Glossy said...

Names like Qua-neshia impart a lot more useful information than mine or Steve's or the average guy's. I think that should be welcomed. I've never met Qua-neshia, but just through her name I feel like I know a lot about her.

And yeah, the phrase quoted by the first commenter is stunning.

Victoria said...

While most behavioral changes were not large ...

No kidding, they weren't large! Every time I think I've heard it all, something else comes along to knock my socks off. What else can these insufferable whites dream up? Nothing has changed since the 1960s, as black and white elites continue to concoct "programs," in order to make jobs for themselves, while supposedly helping the poor. "Administrators" and "researchers," indeed! And don't forget the dozens of "consultants."

Mexico has a single national schoolteachers' union that is so powerful that teachers' jobs in government schools are becoming hereditary.

Wow, wait 'til the UFT hears about this! This is truly pathological, and would be right in keeping with US teachers unions.

“These are programs that are working on deeply entrenched, long-term behaviors.”

No damn kidding? You don't know how deeply entrenched, lady.

How much would it cost to bribe new mothers not to name their daughters "Qua-neshia?"

That's a winner, Steve. Imagine writing that name your whole life?

Victoria said...

I find it tragicomic that we have at long last apparently resorted to bribing our underclass, ...

Bribery is what's been going on since the 1960s. It's bribery to keep blacks from rioting, and burning down your house, and damaging your toys. That's all it's ever been about, and whites have been happy to go along, in order to get along. Surely, you've known that.

Anonymous said...

This is like why some poor people live in filth in their own homes.

I knew a poor European woman who moved to the US and worked in low end jobs till her English improved enough to get a better job. However, her cheap apt was always clean. So clean in fact that when she moved out, the management was shocked and asked whether she had painted and replaced the carpet.

Contrast that with the filthy way many welfare types live despite having plenty of time to tidy up.

It is not the money. It is just a slovenly way of life.

Anonymous said...

I find it tragicomic that we have at long last apparently resorted to bribing our underclass, as one would with a child, into conforming to the most basic standards of modern Western society

And anybody with any direct experience with these programs can tell you it doesn't even work. King County in WA pays $500 and up for summer "paid internships" that consist of setting the kids up with blogging software and letting them sit there and update their myspace pages. To collect the money, you have to show up regularly. Most of the participants don't.

Anonymous said...

What is it with blacks and the ridiculous names they give themselves anyways?

Quaneshia said...

How do ppl talk so matter of factly when in FACT they have no clue what they r talking about

Exordium said...

Hi!

You're a disgusting creep, Steve.

Bye!

fffggyuolkk said...

"A program in Mexico that bribes peasant moms to not pull their kids out school and put them to work after 4th grade in the fields but instead keep them in school through 8th grade so they can learn enough math to be carpenters would appear to be less vulnerable to diminishing marginal returns."

There are other factors as well. Poor rural Mexicans tend to be more respectful of authority and more grateful for a helping hand. They don't think they are ENTITLED to anything and thus feel genuine gratitude when higher authorities show them good will.
In this sense, Mexicans have something in common with poor Asians who also show gratitude to higher authorities who build schools and offer medical services which poor locals had never dreamt of before.

American blacks OTOH feel they are entitled to everything. So, if they are given something for free, they don't think, 'wow, you did a favor for me? I'll try harder to be a better person'. No, the American black thinks right away, 'give me more what is rightfully mine, honkey!!!'

These programs have been implemented in Chile and Brazil too, but I've a feeling they've been more successful with poor non-blacks than with poor blacks. I'll bet poor beneficiaries in Chile did better by the program than poor blacks in Brazil.
In that case, the problem isn't merely cultural but biological. Blacks, being more self-centured and egocentric by nature, are less likely to feel gratitude over anything but merely whine like children, 'gimme more, gimme more'. I've noticed blacks are utterly shameless about taking stuff for free. Many black single mothers teach their kids it's natural for them to get stuff for free. Even Obama acts like he deserves all the kiss-my-ass coverage from the US media. He's not a self-made man but a creature bought and sold with liberal Jewish money. He's Mr. Carrots.

In American black-white relations, whites hand out the carrots while blacks wield the sticks. The sticks can be screaming about 'racism' or acts of violence such as urban riots.

Anonymous said...

I've often thought the USA resembles a continental-sized version of the movie Island of Lost Souls (1932). The liberals are Dr. Moreau and they keep coming up with new ways to "cut back that animal flesh", but it always comes back. My dream is the end, where liberals will be dragged into the House of Pain.

Dave R. said...

Ms. Gibbs said many families had been perplexed by the guidelines that were laid out for them. Cash payments were eventually eliminated for actions like getting a library card and follow-up visits with a doctor.

In other words, you literally can't pay these people to visit a library. Library cards and follow-up doctors' visits are so far beyond their experience they'll stay home rather than get paid to attend. Which seems to call into question the whole point of the program, and solves the mystery behind "...most behavioral changes were not large."

On the subject of diminishing returns, I wonder if we haven't reached the point of diminishing returns on welfare in general. Food stamps are already fungible: people use them on junk food in convenience stores or do a friend's shopping list for half the value in cash. Once you've got shelter, food, medical care and personal electronics, well, that's a better life than was ever enjoyed by the great majority of humanity. I'd bet the non-compliance came from "poor" people who didn't really need the money. They might have liked to have it, certainly, if it came in the form of a no-strings attached check or small bills in a paper bag, but they evidently didn't need it enough to actually do anything they might not have done anyway.

Anonymous said...

The thing is people probably have to get documentation to prove they did whatever was required. That bar is too high. They come from an oral tradition. Requiring written paper proof is discrimination.

David said...

The redoubtable fffggyuolkk opined:

> In American black-white relations, whites hand out the carrots while blacks wield the sticks. The sticks can be screaming about 'racism' or acts of violence such as urban riots. <

Just thought that good line needed repeating, in case anyone missed it.

David said...

To a Marxist, "self-sufficiency" = "independence from the necessity of earning a living in a capitalist economy."

If you're a free person with a job, you're a slave. If you're a government dependent (slave) drawing a check, you're free. Free from a free economy! Whee!

Paul Mendez said...

Is Ms. Darden's first name pronounced "QuaDASHnuhSHEEEah"?

Or is the "-" silent?

josh said...

Do I get my donation back?

Ronduck said...

I know this is off-topic, but I can't shake the feeling that Bloomberg is screwing Linda Gibbs.

none of the above said...

We create all manner of perverse incentives for the poor, both because we don't know how to do better and because we don't want to think too hard about unpleasant subjects. It's not crazy to try to produce some good incentives. I suspect part of the problem is the choice of goals.

The bigger problem is that this is exactly what Herrenstein and Murray talked about with the rise of the custodial state. The elites will treat the proles like children, offer them an allowance, give them rewards for good behavior ("Good job, Jimmy, you brushed your teeth without being reminded!"), etc. This is about as destructive to a free country as anything we could possibly do--worse than our scary anti-terrorism police state powers, or increasing size of the federal government in daily life.

We can be a free society or we can be a custodial one, with the childlike folks at the bottom coaxed, coached, and disciplined by their overseers. It seems unlikely we can be both.