Memphis, Tennessee – home of the blues and rock n’ roll, of BB King and Elvis, of Beale Street and Graceland. But it’s also got another – unhappy – claim to fame. Memphis has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. In order to “open the door to prosperity,” as Mayor AC Wharton tells us, Memphis is looking to an unexpected place: Mexico.
Starting in 1997, Mexico developed an innovative approach to welfare: paying families for sending their children to school, the doctor and the dentist. Critics say the government shouldn’t reward people for doing what they already should be as good citizens. But it’s hard to argue with results: 30 countries have since adopted similar strategies. Now Memphis is trying out the idea too in a joint pilot program with New York City.
Can Mexico help the U.S. break our cycle of poverty?