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How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionBailey, Martha J., and Nicolas Duquette. 2014. "How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity." PSC Research Report No. 14-813. January 2014.

This paper presents a quantitative analysis of the geographic distribution of spending through the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act (EOA). Using newly assembled state and county-level data, the results show that the Johnson administration systematically directed funding toward poorer and more nonwhite areas. In contrast to the distribution of New Deal spending, short-term political considerations appear to have played a minor role in distributing EOA funds. Choosing to fight poverty and discrimination rather than playing politics may help explain some of the immediate backlash against the War on Poverty programs. It also suggests that the implementation of the War on Poverty may play an important role in explaining why it is remembered as a failure.

Country of focus: United States of America.

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