Thursday, January 6, 2011

An innovative, back-to-basics way of helping the poor: Give them money

Hold onto your bootstraps, folks, because this one could come as a surprise. One of the most effective ways to help the poor is to give them money. At least that's the assertion in a New York Times commentary posted this week. The author, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tina Rosenberg, plans to respond to reader comments on Saturday, so it might be worth checking back then.

Rosenberg details the success in Brazil of a "conditional cash transfer" program. Not only has the program helped people who are poor now, it looks to be an effective way of breaking the generational cycle of poverty.

"Here are programs that help the people who most need help, and do so with very little waste, corruption or political interference," she writes.

That's quite a contrast to the prevailing view of helping the poor in the United States. Adopting such a program here would be complicated, to say the least, but still it's interesting to consider success stories from elsewhere in the world.

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