Breaking Stereotypes by Proactively Addressing Community Needs
There is an urgent need—driven by the divisiveness of societal inequity—to end ongoing stereotypes about people living in poverty. One enduring, misguided notion is that providing cash to people living in poverty means they will inevitably use the money to buy drugs and alcohol, so called “temptation goods.” This myth is harmful. It perpetuates stigma and in fact, poverty itself, by subverting policies and programs that support families with low-incomes. Accepting the evidence that proves the contrary allows us to play a role in lifting families out of poverty through simple yet effective strategies. Family Health Project is proud to be one of these solutions disrupting poverty.
Studies examining the impact of cash transfers and social programs have consistently challenged the idea that money given to the poor will be spent on drugs and alcohol. In fact, decades of data prove just the opposite. A World Bank study of 19 cash transfer programs found a significant negative impact on purchases of temptation goods. We’ve seen that FHP funds are overwhelmingly used for family necessities, with rent being the largest expense most families incur, followed by food and transportation. Our programs are not an anomaly. Direct cash giving programs have resulted in healthier, happier individuals and have not led to an increase in substance abuse, as the “temptation goods” narrative would have one believe.
Research from Baby’s First Years, the study upon which Family Health Project is modeled, suggests that unconditional, recurring cash transfers to families in poverty results in faster brain development for their babies and demonstrates that families free from scarcity and the toxic stress of poverty are able to spend more time and energy enriching the lives of their children, making life better for both kids and families.
Financial assistance can be a vital tool in breaking the cycle of poverty and substance abuse. When people have access to resources, they are better equipped to invest in education, skills development, and entrepreneurship.
It is essential to recognize that perpetuating this stereotype not only stigmatizes the poor but also inhibits meaningful progress in addressing the root causes of poverty and substance abuse. By focusing on flawed assumptions, there is the risk of diverting attention away from implementing evidence-based strategies that can truly make a difference.
A Proven Path
Family Health Project’s work has proven to be an effective anti-poverty measure. Our program offers new mothers living in deep poverty $400 each month for three years, without any conditions. Direct giving is an extraordinarily simple and effective way to immediately reduce poverty and the reliable, recurring nature of our program supports the financial stability and agility for parents to address their own unique life circumstances.
Ultimately, assuming people will use financial assistance to buy drugs and alcohol disregards their resilience in facing poverty and ignores the broader context of the challenges faced by lower-income communities. It presumes that people living in poverty are innately irresponsible and that they lack self-control.
At Family Health Project, we have been very intentional in building an organization that places all decision making power in the hands of the women that we fund, trusting that they will make decisions based on what is best for their family.
By providing unrestricted financial support to families in dire situations, there is an opportunity to bring about concrete and transformative change. Help us advance our mission to disrupt poverty one family at a time.