Behind the Headline: The War on Poverty: Was It Lost?

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The War on Poverty: Was It Lost?
4/2/15 | New York Review of Books

Behind the Headline
Was Moynihan Right?
Spring 2015 | Education Next

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Christopher Jencks reviews Legacies of the War on Poverty and explains why there is disagreement over the impact of the War on Poverty (and also why it is so difficult to measure changes in the poverty rate over time).  Jencks writes

when I tell my friends or my students that “there is still a lot of poverty, but less than there used to be,” they have trouble remembering both halves of the sentence. Some remember that there is still a lot of poverty. Others remember that there is less than there used to be. Few remember both.

And as to whether the War on Poverty was won or lost, Jencks notes (spoiler alert)

Although I have argued that the absolute poverty rate has declined dramatically since President Johnson launched his War on Poverty in 1964, it does not follow that the programs he launched between 1964 and 1968 caused the decline.

Earlier this year, Jencks and co-author Sarah McLanahan contributed an article to a special issue of Education Next devoted to revisiting the Moynihan Report fifty years after it was released.

The Moynihan Report looked at the roots of poverty in the African-American community, and was written, in part, to provide support for Johnson’s War on Poverty.

In “Was Moynihan Right?” Jencks and McLanahan analyze the growth of single-parent families, something that the Moynihan Report called attention to, and at the impact of being raised in a single-parent family on educational and life outcomes.

– Education Next


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