New Hope: A Thoughtful and Effective Approach to “Make Work Pay

Duncan, Greg J., Bos, Hans, Gennetian, Lisa L., Hill, Heather | January 1, 2009

This paper makes the case for a national program offering the kind of work supports that were part of the New Hope program, a policy experiment that operated for three years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Our policy, like New Hope, would provide a set of work supports for full-time workers-both parents and nonparents, men and women-that would lift them out of poverty as well as provide essential benefits in the form of health insurance and child-care subsidies for people who needed them. Across all of the people offered the chance to participate in the New Hope program, including single men, work increased and poverty rates fell. Children in New Hope families performed better in school, were more cooperative and independent and had fewer behavior problems and loftier schooling expectations than children in the control group. Because boys have a higher risk of school failure and behavior problems than girls do, it is noteworthy that New Hope was especially successful in improving their school performance and behavior. With its positive effects on children’s achievement and behavior, a scaled-up New Hope program may well help to break the cycle of poverty for a sizeable number of American families in the next generation. With reasonable assumptions about the long-term value of New Hope’s positive impacts on children, New Hope easily passes a cost-benefit test.