• 0.22,1.50
  • 0.36,3.50
  • 0.11,1.50
  • 0.03,3.50
  • -0.03,1.00

The Family Rewards program provided cash incentives to families with low income for completing activities related to children’s education, family health, and parents’ work and education, with the goal of reducing immediate hardship and long-term poverty.

The Family Rewards program provided cash incentives to families with low income for completing activities related to children’s education, family health, and parents’ work and education, with the goal of reducing immediate hardship and long-term poverty.

The Family Rewards program issued payments to participating families’ bank accounts for each activity that families completed or each condition that they met from an established list. The payments varied from $20 per month, per parent, for a parent maintaining public or private health insurance, to $600 when high school students accumulated 11 course credits or passed a statewide standardized exam. Payments were delivered every two months based on the activities or milestones recently completed.

Family Rewards incentivized activities to support children’s educational attainment, including school attendance, achievement levels on standardized tests, and parental engagement with students’ education. It also incentivized preventive health care practices, such as maintaining health insurance coverage for all members of the family. Finally, Family Rewards incentivized employment by providing payments for maintaining full-time work and participating in approved education and job-training activities. Families in the program received cash incentives every two months for up to three years.

Families were eligible for the program if they (1) had at least one child in fourth, seventh, or ninth grade, (2) lived in one of six high-poverty New York City  neighborhoods (which generally had a poverty rate double the city’s overall poverty rate), (3) had a child enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (which served as a proxy for identifying families that earned income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level), and (4) were permanent residents of the United States.

The Family Rewards program was implemented in New York City, NY.

The Family Rewards program was an earlier version of the Family Rewards 2.0 program, which offered cash incentives for education, health care, and work activities, and provided case management and supportive services.

Year evaluation began: 2007
Populations and employment barriers: Very low income, Parents
Intervention services: Financial incentives
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Supported favorable $4,706 per year 0.225 4994
Long-term Supported favorable $3,640 per year 0.174 4993
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Mixed support favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.016 4994
Long-term Little evidence to assess support 0% (in percentage points) 0.000 0
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable $44 per year 0.016 4966
Long-term Supported favorable $-39 per year -0.014 4749
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.015 3082

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
51%
White, not Hispanic
1%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
47%
Another race
1%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The program lasted three years, from September 2007 to August 2010. Evaluators began enrolling families in the study in July 2007 and concluded enrollment in January 2008. The study followed participants for about 42 months after enrollment.

Organizations implementing intervention

Seedco, a private, national economic and workforce development agency, acted as an intermediary between Opportunity-NYC Family Rewards, which funded the conditional cash transfer program, and six community-based organizations that facilitated the program in each of the neighborhoods served.

Populations served

Family Rewards served families with children in fourth, seventh, or ninth grade who were enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, which served as a proxy for identifying families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. More than 80 percent of families served were one-parent families, with an average of 2.5 children per household. The majority of parents were female (94 percent) and Hispanic or Black (98 percent). Participation was voluntary.

Description of services implemented

The Family Rewards program issued payments to participating families’ bank accounts for each activity that families completed or each condition that they met from an established list. The payments varied from $20 per month for maintaining public or private health insurance for each parent, to $600 when high school students accumulated 11 course credits or passed a statewide standardized exam. Payments were delivered every two months based on the activities or milestones recently completed. Family Rewards incentivized three categories of activities:

  • Children’s educational efforts and achievement. Family Rewards provided incentives to support children’s educational attainment, including school attendance, achievement levels on standardized tests, and parental engagement with students’ education.

  • Family preventive health care practices. Family Rewards incentivized preventive health care practices, such as maintaining health insurance coverage for all members of the family and completing nonemergency medical and dental checkups.

  • Employment. Family Rewards incentivized adult workforce efforts by providing payments for maintaining full-time work and participating in approved education and job-training activities. Incentives included payments of $150 per month for sustaining full-time employment (30 hours per week for 6 out of every 8 weeks) and up to $3,000 over 3 years for participating in education and training, such as occupational skills training, English as a second language instruction, or GED preparation, while employed at least 10 hours per week.

The intervention was mostly implemented as planned, but there were challenges in recruiting families and orienting them to the program because of the complexity of the incentive eligibility. For example, Seedco provided coupon books with the names of family members and rewards that each was eligible for, but these were delayed while the conditions and rewards were being finalized. Several incentives were discontinued after the first or second year of the study to simplify the program’s operations and reduce its costs.

Service intensity

More than 99 percent of families earned at least one reward in the first three years of the program, receiving an average of $8,707 over this period.

Comparison conditions

Eligible families not assigned to Family Rewards were not eligible to receive cash incentives.

Partnerships

Seedco partnered with six neighborhood partner organizations to implement the Family Rewards intervention. The six neighborhood partner organizations were as follows: Urban Health Plan and BronxWorks in the Bronx; Brownsville Multi-Service Center (part of the Brownsville Community Development Corporation) and Groundwork, Inc. in Brooklyn; and Catholic Charities Community Services, Joseph P. Kennedy Center, and Union Settlement Association in Manhattan.

Staffing

Each of the six community-based organizations designated the equivalent of two full-time staff to conduct start-up activities, including recruitment and orientation, and to provide customer service, including helping families redeem rewards, providing referrals, and hosting social events. The study authors did not include information on the training, degrees, or certifications of staff.

Local context

The Family Rewards program was implemented in New York City, NY. Families were recruited from six high-poverty neighborhoods, two each in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model, but it did mention that Seedco ensured fidelity to the program model, including adherence to a “no case management” rule, meaning staff did not offer any direct services or follow-up to help families get services to address barriers or meet their goals.

Funding source

The study was funded by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Starr Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Tiger Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, American International Group, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the New York Community Trust.

Cost information

Family Rewards’ per-family costs were $13,093 (2014 dollars) over three years, including reward payments and operation costs. The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1