Project Match is a Chicago based outfit which focuses on welfare to work – both doing it, and doing research on doing it. One of their current schemes is Pathways to Rewards, the goal of which is
to promote family and community stabilization by providing the structure, support, and incentives for the leaseholder – and all other adults and children on the lease – to work toward individual goals around employment, lease compliance, academic and extracurricular achievement, and community involvement…
Central to Pathways to Rewards is the new incentive component. As individuals meet their goals, they earn points toward rewards such as DVD players, assistance with utility bills, and health club memberships. As with a “frequent flyer” program, people can redeem points for a small reward or accrue points over time for a larger reward. The rewards are announced at catered community events, held every three months, to which all the families participating in the pilot are invited.
They are presumably taking advantage of the same kind of semi-rational behaviour that lies behind air miles and supermarket loyalty cards – which both distort people’s behaviour more than they ‘ought’ to. That being the case, it should be a very attractive technique for government if other (negative and positive) incentives are less financially efficient. But then the politics of giving DVD players or time at the gym – still less flights to the sun – to jobseekers would be quite interesting to observe.