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Blogpost: Impact Evaluations and Policymaking (CGD, 15 April 2010)

Posted date: 
Thu, 04/15/2010

A recent New York Times article gives a real time lesson in the relationship between good impact evaluations (which often provide a lot of useful nuanced information) and policymaking (which thrives on big messages while trying to accommodate political, social and cultural pressures).

The focus of this experience, unfolding right now, is New York City’s Opportunity NYC Family Rewards – a conditional cash transfer program that was inspired by Mexico’s Oportunidades program (which, incidentally was brought to Mayor Bloomberg’s attention by someone who read about Oportunidades in the Center’s book Millions Saved).

After 3 years, the evaluation of Opportunity NYC showed mixed results. The program gave participating families a 16% chance of moving out of poverty, improved high school performance for some students, and increased preventive dental care; but it didn’t affect elementary and middle school performance as was hoped. The experiment was privately funded at a cost of about $6,000 per family and requires another $14 million in operational funds to continue for another year.

But, for now, the Bloomberg administration has no plans to continue the program. Bloomberg’s reaction to the study, according to the NYT: