Albuquerque’s “Better Way" Experiment

Friday, August 19, 2016

"For the past year, Albuquerque has been experimenting with a pilot jobs program for its homeless population called 'There’s a Better Way.' The initiative began as a push to connect the homeless with shelters and other assistance providers, but within a few months of its launch, the city also started offering needy residents $9 an hour to perform menial labor such as cleaning up litter. The program also offers lunch and overnight shelter to participants... [I]t’s not hard to envision a more robust and heavily resourced version of the program, in which just about any homeless Albuquerque resident can find temporary public sector work if he or she wants it. This version of the policy would resemble something close to a job guarantee targeted specifically at Albuquerque’s homeless population. At the very least, expanding the 'Better Way' model could test out some of a job guarantee’s purported advantages. 

For those unfamiliar with the term, a job guarantee is exactly what it sounds like: A blanket offer of public sector employment to any unemployed, able-bodied adults who want it. Academics like Duke public policy expert Sandy Darity and Bard economist Pavlina Tcherneva have been studying the proposal for years, but it hasn’t quite captured the public’s attention like, say, recent calls for a universal basic income. Nonetheless, I think there are some good reasons we might prefer an employment program to unconditional cash transfers, and Albuquerque’s experience showcases them nicely."

Read more: