NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Promise Zone Program Help the Poor?

January 16, 2014

President Obama recently announced the recipients of his "promise zone" program, says the Christian Science Monitor.

  • The president's new promise zone program is intended to provide aid to geographic areas in which the poor live.
  • The first places that will receive aid through the program include parts of San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

The program is part of the Obama administration's broader push against income inequality. Over the next four years, the program will be launched in 20 zones, both rural and urban.

  • Those zones will remain a part of the program for a decade.
  • The areas will receive congressionally-approved tax credits as well as help from federal agencies to combat a variety of social problems, from crime to high school dropout rates.

Zip code-targeted policies have been around since 1933, when FDR created the Tennessee Valley Authority. Similarly, President Kennedy started the Appalachian Regional Commission in 1963, which President Johnson expanded in 1965.

The promise zone program is modeled on the Clinton "empowerment zones" (EZ) program, which gave tax credits to distressed urban areas. There is no consensus as to whether the EZ program worked, and unless the promise zone initiative has very meticulous tools in place to measure its success, it is also going to be incredibly difficult to tell whether the program is actually helping the poor.

Other analysts are concerned that the program will only shift the problem around, if the program simply draws investment and jobs away from nearby places and into the targeted communities.

Source: Elizabeth Barber, "Will Obama's 'Promise Zone' Program Really Help the Poor?" Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2014.


Browse more articles on Economic Issues