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PR- 123-07
April 24, 2007


Visit to Inform the Final Design Decisions of the Nation's First Conditional Cash Transfer Program

Mayor Meets with Mexican President Calderon, Mexican Secretary of Social Development, and Mayors of Mexico City and Toluca

Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Toluca, Mexico today for a site visit in support of his recently-launched Opportunity NYC, the nation's first-ever conditional cash transfer pilot program designed to help New Yorkers break the cycle of poverty. He met with Mexico's Secretary for Social Development Beatriz Zavala and Toluca Mayor Juan Rodolfo Sanchez, and also traveled to Mexico City and met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard.  This visit, in which the Mayor observed first-hand Toluca's Oportunidades conditional cash transfer program and attended several meetings and working sessions with senior government officials, continues a learning exchange with the Mexican government that began when Mexican officials visited New York in January.  Opportunity NYC is a key initiative of Mayor Bloomberg's Center for Economic Opportunity, which was established to implement the recommendations of his second-term poverty agenda.  Opportunity NYC is based upon successful models of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs around the world, including Mexico's.  The Mayor was accompanied by Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs and Dr. Judith Rodin, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, the lead organization in this effort.

"New Yorkers recognize the power of a good idea, and we're here in Toluca today to see first-hand how one good idea - the Oportunidades program - works," said 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. This visit will enable us to structure our Opportunity NYC program effectively, so that it can help us meet our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty. I want to thank the Rockefeller Foundation for their lead role in this important initiative and for underwriting the delegation's travel."

"The Mexican Oportunidades program has helped to revolutionize poverty reduction work by creating a model that allows recipients to make investments for the future," said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, which provided the initial research and development capital for the pilot program.  "The results of Oportunidades have been so remarkable that the conditional cash transfer model has been replicated in twenty countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jamaica and Turkey.  And now, Mayor Bloomberg and his Administration have the foresight and ingenuity to create a pilot program in New York City that is modeled on this program. The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to support this very important learning exchange and the Opportunity NYC pilot." 

The other members of the delegation also served on the Commission on Economic Opportunity (also known as the Mayor's Poverty Commission):  President of MDRC, Dr. Gordon Berlin; President and CEO of Seedco, Diane Baillargeon; Executive Director of the Center for Economic Opportunity, Veronica White; Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Policy at NYU's Steinhardt School; Dr. Lawrence Aber, and CEO of Safe Space, Dr. Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. 

Oportunidades, Mexico's conditional cash transfer program and principal anti-poverty initiative, serves approximately 25 million people.  The program focuses predominantly on helping families in rural and urban communities invest in improving the health, education and nutrition of their children.  Mexico's Secretariat for Social Development, or SEDESOL, runs Oportunidades, with each state having a coordinator and each locality a team of managers.

Oportunidades has been recognized for having a significant impact on reducing poverty in Mexico.  In a ten-year period from the mid-1990's to the mid-2000's, Oportunidades contributed to a 5% reduction in poverty.  This decrease was largely a product of the country's effective efforts in targeting its poorest citizens. Between 2000 and 2004, the rate of extreme poverty in Mexico dropped by 7%.

Evaluations of Mexico's program have demonstrated improved child and family outcomes in the areas of health and education.  For instance, between 1997 and 2002, the demand for preventative health services increased by five times the amount prior to the implementation of Progresa, as Oportunidades was formerly called.  This improvement in utilization of preventive health care has led to better public health, as demonstrated by:

  • A reduction in sick days among children and adults in both rural and urban areas
  • An increase in prenatal health visits
  • An improvement in the development of fine and gross motor skills in young children

Health outcomes have also been linked to improved educational outcomes in young children, with children enrolled in the program exhibiting increased school-readiness skills compared to non-participants.  Oportunidades has also resulted in enhanced educational outcomes, particularly in critical transition periods between elementary and middle school, with significant decreases in failing and drop-out rates among participating children. 

As the design of Opportunity NYC approaches the final stages, this visit to Mexico will allow the Mayor and his delegation to gain an increased knowledge of Oportunidades's details by meeting with government officials, national and local program administrators, independent program evaluators, and program beneficiaries.  In addition, it will help to inform specific operational decisions by providing a chance for the New York City delegation to see the program's cash distribution methods, and to observe and develop effective implementation strategies, which can be tailored to New York City's needs and circumstances. 

In January 2007, representatives from the Oportunidades program and independent evaluators of the program visited New York City to meet with staff from City Agencies and partner organizations involved in the design of Opportunity NYC to discuss the design, operation, and evaluation of Oportunidades.

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation was established in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., to "promote the well-being" of humanity by addressing the root causes of serious problems.  The Foundation works around the world to expand opportunities for poor or vulnerable people and to help ensure that globalization's benefits are more widely shared. With assets of more than $3.5 billion, it is one of the few institutions to conduct such work both within the United States and internationally.

Center for Economic Opportunity

The Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) was established by Mayor Bloomberg to implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City.  The CEO works with City agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives aimed at reducing poverty, to support these initiatives through a new Innovation Fund, and to oversee a rigorous evaluation of each initiative to determine which are most successful.  The CEO is also charged with oversight of Opportunity NYC, including its design, management and implementation.


Stu Loeser / Dawn Walker   (212) 788-2958

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