Staying Put

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One of the greatest challenges for the Promise movement is that time moves so slowly. A Promise program is an expensive proposition and everyone — including those who work in it every day — wants to know, “Is it working?”

We all have anecdotes, like the family with four young children who moved into town to take advantage of the program that will potentially save them $200,000.

But coming up with short-term answers to long-term questions can be daunting. A single-year statistical anomaly can create crisis and jeopardize funding.

So there was a measure of pleasure in reading a new working paper from the W.E. Upjohn Institute that found cities with “generous Promise programs” were experiencing a significant reduction in out-migration, even in the short term. That was the conclusion of an eight-city study — “Migration and Housing Price Effects of Place-Based College Scholarships” — by Timothy J. Bartik and Nathan Sotherland.

And households with children were even more likely to stay put in the three years following the announcement of a Promise program. As a result, the researchers found that because of that pattern “local economic development may also be enhanced in the short-term.”

Bartik and Sotherland examined migration and housing prices in eight cities altogether — Arkadelphia, Buffalo, El Dorado, Hammond, Kalamazoo, New Haven, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

While speeding up time isn’t an option, there is a lot more focus on Promise research as of late. The last two PromiseNet conferences — 2014 in New Haven and 2015 in Kalamazoo — have hosted sessions on early outcomes of a variety of programs.

Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation released its early findings regarding the New Haven Promise called Transforming An Urban School System.

Perhaps next time the focus will be on transforming the entire city.

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