A Preliminary Look at Early Educational Results of the Opportunity NYC – Family Rewards Program

A Research Note for Funders

This research note provides an update to the funders of the Opportunity NYC demonstration of preliminary results from the evaluation of the Family Rewards program. Targeted toward very low-income families living in six high-poverty New York City communities, Family Rewards offers cash rewards tied to efforts and achievements in the areas of children’s education, family preventive health care practices, and parents’ employment. The program is a special research demonstration project sponsored by the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), which is a unit within the Office of the Mayor, and it is being carefully evaluated over several years using a random assignment research design. The program and the evaluation are privately funded and are part of a portfolio of three incentive-based demonstration projects that together are known as Opportunity NYC.

Family Rewards was designed in a partnership involving CEO, MDRC (a national nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization), and Seedco (a national workforce and social services intermediary organization). Seedco is also the main agency responsible for operating the program, in cooperation with six community-based organizations, referred to as Neighborhood Partner Organizations (NPOs). MDRC is conducting the evaluation, which will include impact, implementation, and benefit-cost assessments of the program over a five-year follow-up period.

The research note provides a brief review of the design of the Family Rewards program, its first-year rollout, the evaluation framework for measuring its impacts, participants’ receipt of rewards, and preliminary estimates of the program’s impacts on selected educational outcomes during the first year. In illustrating its approach to the impact analysis, the paper focuses on educational results, because school records are the only data available on program outcomes so far. Thus, this document is not meant to serve as a basis for assessing the overall effectiveness of the Family Rewards program, even at an early stage. Most of the data required for that assessment are still being collected and processed, including a full second year of school administrative records data. A report that will present a comprehensive analysis of the program’s implementation and early impacts — including its effects on additional education outcomes, employment and health outcomes, income, poverty, and a variety of quality-of-life outcomes — is in preparation and is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Funding for Opportunity NYC is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Starr Foundation, American International Group (AIG), the Robin Hood Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Broad Foundation, New York Community Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Tiger Foundation.

Document Details

Publication Type
June 2009
Miller, Cynthia, James Riccio, and Jared Smith. 2009. A Preliminary Look at Early Educational Results of the Opportunity NYC – Family Rewards Program. New York: MDRC.