June 14, 2005

OPPORTUNITIES (via Michael Herdegen):

Incentives enlisted in war on poverty (Hugh Dellios, 6/12/05, Chicago Tribune)

Celia Rojo, Manuel Mejia and their four children are the portrait of extreme poverty in Latin America. They may also be on the leading edge of efforts to combat it, according to the World Bank and others.

Rojo receives $15 each month from the Mexican government, as long as she continues visiting the health clinic, and $36 monthly as long as she keeps her 13-year-old daughter and 7-year-old twins in school. She would receive more, but her 17-year-old son dropped out.

The Mejia family reflects the successes and challenges of Opportunities, Mexico's $3 billion a year attempt to deal with the chronic poverty that plagues the region. At a time when parts of Latin America are suffering from instability and disillusionment with the free market and democratic systems, officials from Colombia and other nations have gone to Mexico to examine whether its anti-poverty program could help their struggling poor.

World Bank analysts and others cautiously praise Mexico's program, which puts cash "scholarships" in the hands of the neediest families if they comply with certain health and education requirements aimed at helping their children break the cycle of poverty that trapped their parents and grandparents.

The program began in 1997 but has been expanded by President Vicente Fox. While the president credits the program with lowering Mexico's poverty rate, others say the true impact will be judged over a longer term. But so far, there have been positive results in school attendance rates and health statistics, according to Mexican officials and independent researchers.

The program's directors say there also is evidence it is empowering women with their own cash, encouraging young women to start families later and at least delaying the migration of some young men to the U.S.

If it reduces immigration Americans will even help pay for it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2005 7:37 AM

As anti-immigration folk ne'er tire of pointing out, Mexican immigration to the U.S., particularly of illegals, has a rather large up-front cost for America.

Even if the U.S. were to completely underwrite the whole Mexican poverty-alleviation programme, it would be somewhat offset by lower costs in America for health care, education, and welfare programmes.
If nothing else, the illegals should tend to be older and better educated, and thus a more effective work force.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at June 14, 2005 11:38 AM
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