MDRC in the News

Liberals and Conservatives Will Hate This Study on How to Help the Poor

The Washington Post

10/2016

It has been more than four decades since the federal government dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to a massive experiment on poverty. Thousands of families in several cities participated, entering a program that guaranteed as much as $25,900 a year for a family of four.

Economists are still debating the results of the federal Income Maintenance Experiments. This week, two researchers put out some surprising new findings from the Seattle and Denver programs that challenge existing theories about welfare and the poor.

On one hand, the results contradict two common conservative critiques of welfare: The researchers did not find that the payments broke up marriages or made the children more dependent on government help as adults. On the other, there is little evidence to support the hopes of some on the left that the payments would improve children’s future prospects in life…..

…..However, Charles Michalopoulos, the chief economist at the social-policy research group MDRC, argues that this interpretation is at odds with other research. Workers in occupations that pay poorly do not always develop their skills on the job, he said, so adults who were not in the experiment would not become significantly more skilled simply because they worked more hours…..

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