The Big Apple Offers Big Answers For Addressing Urban Poverty

I grew up in Brooklyn and like many native New Yorkers, I couldn't be prouder of the city I once called home. But recently another reason for that New York pride has surfaced. New York has one of the lowest poverty rates in the United States. Yep, lower than what you find in Chicago, L.A. or Houston. It's been going that way for the past 10 years.

You can't be "from Brooklyn" or any of the famous five boroughs and not have borne witness to the positive uptick in the overall quality of life that has been happening over the years. What many people, even New Yorkers themselves, may be surprised to learn is that there was an intentional catalyst that helped guide that growth, Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Public leaders always hope for good luck with the economy in order to help their popularity. But New York under Bloomberg clearly benefitted from more than just good fortune, especially considering the challenges of the last few years. Under Bloomberg, a series of innovative programs aimed at ensuring residents could gain from and contribute to the city's economic advances came to fruition.

Not all the "experiments" were successful, but by carefully considering and testing different components to formulate scalable strategies, successes were found even in the midst of the failures.

Now, two of Bloomberg's top advisors on poverty have shared their lessons learned. "The net result of New York City's experiments is a catalogue of replicable, scalable programs that could prove promising in any city," Linda Gibbs and Robert Doar write for Washington Monthly.

In the first of a multi-part series, they are candid in their assessment, for example: "[T]he effects of the Family Rewards program were, in fact, 'more modest than had been hoped,' according to a 2013 report by MDRC, a nonprofit research organization studying the initiative. But rather than being discouraged, Bloomberg wore this failure as a badge of courage and used his muscle to scale back or terminate what didn't work."

In the words of Alicia Keys, let's hear it for New York.