Foreign Policy Blogs

New York City Mayor Examines Mexican Anti-poverty Program

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Toluca, Mexico this week to learn about the Oportunidades anti-poverty program.  Serving approximately 25 million people, Opportunidades is Mexico's conditional cash transfer program and principal anti-poverty initiative. The program awards cash grants to economically disadvantaged families for keeping their children in school and providing them with healthcare.  The focus on breaking the cycle of poverty by taking a long-term approach has gained praise from the World Bank and several countries that have looked to it as a model. Now, New York City is doing the same.

Mayor Bloomberg's Center for Economic Opportunity has introduced Opportunity NYC, a conditional cash transfer program that will be the first of its kind in the U.S. It is based on similar programs throughout the world, including Mexico's. As a pilot program, Opportunity NYC will begin with 2,500 families and could be scaled up from there, depending on the results.

In Mexico, the Oportunidades program is credited with decreasing the percentage of Mexicans living in extreme poverty by 17% since 1996. Strides have also been made in education and healthcare, with measureable improvements in nutrition, preventive healthcare access, prenatal health visits, school-readiness skills, and decreases in drop-out and failure rates among participating children, among other indicators.

According to Mayor Bloomberg, “The bottom line about Mexico's conditional cash transfer program is that it works, and during this trip we want to study the details of what they’re doing right, so our program in New York can also succeed.” (See press release.)

The Mayor's delegation included city representatives along with Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, a participant in the Opportunity NYC program. Delegates saw the Oportunidades program in action in Toluca and also visited Mexico City to meet Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and President Felipe Calderon.