Gloria Ferris

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Archive for June, 2013

Freakonomics » Should We All Just Give Cash Directly to the Poor?

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Soon, we’ll hear the cry of the secular nonprofits, in one voice, shrieking, “What about us?”

To paraphrase Niehaus, is it fair to say, “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in a ghetto in Cleveland”?

Perhaps it would be better to give directly. Certainly, it should be better than funneling funds through the city government, the city council, and the local councilperson.

Silicon Valley heavyweights like Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Google have a new favorite charity: GiveDirectly, an organization that makes direct transfers (via M-Pesa) to poor people in the developing world. From Forbes:

“Instead of building hospitals, why don’t we just give poor people money? Research shows it’s effective,” [Hughes] said. Hughes, who purchased The New Republic magazine in early 2012 and serves as publisher, also joined the board of GiveDirectly.

Backing up Hughes’s point was Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Giving at Google. She told the crowd Thursday night that one of her superiors at Google was extremely skeptical when Fuller first suggested that Google back GiveDirectly. “I was told, ‘You must be smoking crack,’ ” Fuller recalled. But GiveDirectly had exactly what Google wanted: lots of data on how the recipients of cash used it to improve their nutrition, their health and their children’s education. After looking at the data, Google donated $2.5 million to GiveDirectly.

GiveDirectly stems from economist Paul Niehaus‘s research in India, where to limit corruption the government  makes direct cash transfers via mobile phones.  “A typical poor person is poor not because he is irresponsible, but because he was born in Africa,” says Niehaus, adding that GiveDirectly’s transfers have had positive impacts on nutrition, education, land, and livestock — and haven’t increased alcohol consumption.  The charity is also No. 2 on Givewell’s list of recommended charities.

Freakonomics » Should We All Just Give Cash Directly to the Poor?

Written by Gloria Ferris

June 4th, 2013 at 10:24 am