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Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards Demonstration
Last registered on January 22, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards Demonstration
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001767
Initial registration date
January 21, 2018
Last updated
January 22, 2018 1:08 PM EST
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
MDRC
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
MDRC
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2007-07-01
End date
2016-05-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards was an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to help families break the cycle of poverty--the first comprehensive CCT program in a developed country. Launched in 2007 by New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity, it offered cash assistance to low-income families to reduce immediate hardship, but conditioned that assistance on families' efforts to build up their "human capital" to reduce the risk of longer-term and second-generation poverty. The program thus tied a broad array of cash rewards (financial incentives) to prespecified activities and outcomes in the areas of children's education, families' preventive health care, and parents’ employment. It operated as a pilot program for three years, concluding, as planned, in August 2010.

Six community-based organizations, in partnership with a lead nonprofit agency, ran Family Rewards in six of New York City's highest-poverty communities. MDRC evaluated the program through a randomized controlled trial involving approximately 4,800 families with 11,000 children; half of the families could receive the cash rewards if they met the required conditions, and half were assigned to a control group that did not participate in the program and could not receive the rewards.

Key Findings

Family Rewards transferred over $8,700, on average, to families during the three-year period in which it operated. By the end of the study, it had produced some positive effects on some outcomes, but left many other outcomes unchanged. For example, the program:

-- Reduced current poverty and material hardship, including hunger and some housing-related hardships (especially for families in severe poverty), although those effects weakened after the cash transfers ended
-- Did not improve school outcomes for elementary or middle school students
-- Substantially increased graduation rates and other school outcomes for ninth-graders who entered high school as proficient readers, and increased their likelihood of subsequently enrolling full time in four-year colleges
-- Had few positive effects on school outcomes for nonproficient students
-- Did not increase families' receipt of annual medical checkups, which was already high, and had limited effects on families' health outcomes
-- Substantially increased families' receipt of preventive dental care
-- Did not increase parents' employment in or earnings from jobs covered by the unemployment insurance system (thus impeding sustained reductions in poverty), and led to some small earnings reductions for certain more disadvantaged subgroups

MDRC also studied a revised Family Rewards model that operated in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Bronx, New York, as part of a separate demonstration project, referred to as Family Rewards 2.0.
Registration Citation
Citation
Miller, Cynthia and James Riccio. 2018. "Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards Demonstration." AEA RCT Registry. January 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1767-1.0.
Former Citation
Miller, Cynthia, James Riccio and James Riccio. 2018. "Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards Demonstration." AEA RCT Registry. January 22. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1767/history/25176.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Family Rewards tied cash rewards to a prespecified set of activities and outcomes. The program included an extensive set of rewards with the following conditions:
-- Education-focused conditions, which included meeting goals for children's attendance in school, achievement levels on standardized tests, and other school progress markers, as well as parents' engagement with their children's education
-- Health-focused conditions, which included maintaining health insurance coverage for parents and their children, as well as obtaining age-appropriate preventive medical and dental checkups for each family member
-- Workforce-focused conditions, aimed at parents, which included sustaining full-time work and participation in approved education or job training activities

The program offered a set of 22 different incentives during its first two years (some of which were discontinued in Year 3), ranging in value from $20 to $600 each per year. Families could receive cash rewards totaling several thousand dollars per year over a three-year period. The actual amounts that families received depended on the number and particular type of rewards they earned. (Some rewards carried higher payments than others.) Larger families could earn higher payments because each child’s actions could earn education and health rewards.

In general, payments were made directly to the parents. However, some education-related payments for high school students were paid directly to the students. Depending on the reward, the entire payment was made to the student (for example, for passing a Regents exam) or split with the parents (for example, for meeting the attendance standard). To maximize the potential incentive value of the rewards, the program imposed no restrictions on how families could spend the money.
Intervention Start Date
2007-09-01
Intervention End Date
2010-08-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Household income, public assistance receipt; children's school enrollment and attendance, exam scores, and graduation rate, and parents' involvement with child's learning; health insurance coverage, use of health care services (including dental care), health outcomes (self-rated health, chronic conditions, BMI, smoking, psychological well-being); adult educational attainment and job training, employment, earnings
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The Family Rewards pilot served 2,400 families, and an equal number of families were assigned to the control group. Eligible families lived in the selected community districts with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level and had at least one child in public school in either the fourth, seventh, or ninth grade. These grades were chosen because they reflect critical transition points in students' school careers. Students who fail to navigate them successfully fall behind their peers and have difficulty recovering, increasing their risk of dropping out, especially in the early high school years.

Seedco assembled a network of six Neighborhood Partner Organizations in the designated community districts to recruit and enroll eligible families. Although the program had no formal case management component, participating families had several avenues--a telephone hotline, a Web site, and an in-person help desk at the community-based organizations--to get information on services that could help them meet the program conditions (for example, information on where to get homework help for their children, how to find a doctor, and where to get help finding jobs and training). In addition, families could also get help opening bank accounts, so that the payments could be transferred electronically and accessed via debit cards.

The evaluation of ONYC: Family Rewards has three major strands of research: an impact analysis, an implementation and process analysis, and a benefit-cost analysis:

-- Impact analysis. This analysis is examining the program's effects on a wide range of outcomes, including children's school performance; family health care practices and health outcomes; parents' employment and training outcomes; and family income, benefit receipt, poverty, material hardship, and quality of life.

-- Implementation and process analysis. This analysis is exploring the operations of Family Rewards, focusing particularly on the roles and experiences of the implementing institutions (particularly, Seedco and the community partners) and on the perceptions and experiences of the participating families.

-- Benefit-cost analysis. This analysis will estimate the cost of operating Family Rewards, distinguishing how much was spent on various aspects of program delivery versus the amount of cash transferred to the participating families. It will also make a number of benefit-cost comparisons, examining the economic "gains" and "losses" from several perspectives, such as from the perspective of participants and their families and from the perspective of taxpayers and government budgets.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
batch random assignment by computer at MDRC
Randomization Unit
family
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
4,750 families
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,750 families
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
2,373 families control, 2,377 families treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
August 31, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
May 31, 2016, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
4,750 families
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
4,750 families
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
2,373 families control, 2,377 families treatment
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
This report summarizes the findings of a long-term evaluation of Opportunity NYC--Family Rewards, an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to help families break the cycle of poverty. Family Rewards was the first comprehensive CCT program in a developed country. Launched in 2007 by New York City's Center for Economic Opportunity, it offered cash assistance to low-income families to reduce immediate hardship, but conditioned that assistance on families' efforts to build up their "human capital" to reduce the risk of longer-term and second-generation poverty. The program thus tied a broad array of cash rewards (financial incentives) to prespecified activities and outcomes in the areas of children’s education, families' preventive health care, and parents’ employment. It operated as a pilot program for three years, concluding, as planned, in August 2010.

Six community-based organizations, in partnership with a lead nonprofit agency, ran Family Rewards in six of New York City's highest-poverty communities. MDRC evaluated the program through a randomized controlled trial involving approximately 4,800 families with 11,000 children; half of the families could receive the cash rewards if they met the required conditions, and half were assigned to a control group that did not participate in the program and could not receive the rewards. This report distills previously published findings and some longer-term updates on the program's effects on a wide range of outcomes, covering two to six years after families entered the study (depending on the data source).

Key Findings
Family Rewards transferred over $8,700, on average, to families during the three-year period in which it operated. By the end of the study, it had produced some positive effects on some outcomes, but left many other outcomes unchanged. For example, the program:
-- Reduced current poverty and material hardship, including hunger and some housing-related hardships (especially for families in severe poverty), although those effects weakened after the cash transfers ended
-- Did not improve school outcomes for elementary or middle school students
-- Substantially increased graduation rates and other school outcomes for ninth-graders who entered high school as proficient readers, and increased their likelihood of subsequently enrolling full time in four-year colleges
-- Had few positive effects on school outcomes for nonproficient students
-- Did not increase families' receipt of annual medical checkups, which was already high, and had limited effects on families' health outcomes
-- Substantially increased families' receipt of preventive dental care
-- Did not increase parents' employment in or earnings from jobs covered by the unemployment insurance system (thus impeding sustained reductions in poverty), and led to some small earnings reductions for certain more disadvantaged subgroups

MDRC is also studying a revised Family Rewards model that operated in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Bronx, New York, as part of a separate demonstration project, referred to as Family Rewards 2.0.
Citation
Riccio, James A., and Cynthia Miller. 2016. New York City’s First Conditional Cash Transfer Program: What Worked, What Didn’t. New York: MDRC.