Legacies of the War on Poverty

Russell Sage Foundation
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Many believe that the War on Poverty, launched by President Johnson in 1964, ended in failure. In 2010, the official poverty rate was 15 percent, almost as high as when the War on Poverty was declared. Historical and contemporary accounts often portray the War on Poverty as a costly experiment that created doubts about the ability of public policies to address complex social problems. Legacies of the War on Poverty, drawing from fifty years of empirical evidence, documents that this popular view is too negative. The volume offers a balanced assessment of the War on Poverty that highlights some remarkable policy successes and promises to shift the national conversation on poverty in America.

Featuring contributions from leading poverty researchers, Legacies of the War on Poverty demonstrates that poverty and racial discrimination would likely have been much greater today if the War on Poverty had not been launched. Chloe Gibbs, Jens Ludwig, and Douglas Miller dispel the notion that the Head Start education program does not work. While its impact on children’s test scores fade, the program contributes to participants’ long-term educational achievement and, importantly, their earnings growth later in life. Elizabeth Cascio and Sarah Reber show that Title I legislation reduced the school funding gap between poorer and richer states and prompted Southern school districts to desegregate, increasing educational opportunity for African Americans.

The volume also examines the significant consequences of income support, housing, and health care programs. Jane Waldfogel shows that without the era’s expansion of food stamps and other nutrition programs, the child poverty rate in 2010 would have been three percentage points higher. Kathleen McGarry examines the policies that contributed to a great success of the War on Poverty: the rapid decline in elderly poverty, which fell from 35 percent in 1959 to below 10 percent in 2010. Barbara Wolfe concludes that Medicaid and Community Health Centers contributed to large reductions in infant mortality and increased life expectancy. Katherine Swartz finds that Medicare and Medicaid increased access to health care among the elderly and reduced the risk that they could not afford care or that obtaining it would bankrupt them and their families.

Legacies of the War on Poverty demonstrates that well-designed government programs can reduce poverty, racial discrimination, and material hardships. This insightful volume refutes pessimism about the effects of social policies and provides new lessons about what more can be done to improve the lives of the poor.

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About the author

MARTHA J. BAILEY is associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Michigan and faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. SHELDON DANZIGER is the President of the Russell Sage Foundation. He was formerly the Henry J. Meyer Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy and director of the National Poverty Center at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan.

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Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Jul 31, 2013
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Pages
324
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ISBN
9781610448147
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Policy
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Services & Welfare
Social Science / Poverty & Homelessness
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This content is DRM protected.
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Maria Cancian
Poverty declined significantly in the decade after Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 declaration of “War on Poverty.” Dramatically increased federal funding for education and training programs, social security benefits, other income support programs, and a growing economy reduced poverty and raised expectations that income poverty could be eliminated within a generation. Yet the official poverty rate has never fallen below its 1973 level and remains higher than the rates in many other advanced economies. In this book, editors Maria Cancian and Sheldon Danziger and leading poverty researchers assess why the War on Poverty was not won and analyze the most promising strategies to reduce poverty in the twenty-first century economy.

Changing Poverty, Changing Policies documents how economic, social, demographic, and public policy changes since the early 1970s have altered who is poor and where antipoverty initiatives have kept pace or fallen behind. Part I shows that little progress has been made in reducing poverty, except among the elderly, in the last three decades. The chapters examine how changing labor market opportunities for less-educated workers have increased their risk of poverty (Rebecca Blank), and how family structure changes (Maria Cancian and Deborah Reed) and immigration have affected poverty (Steven Raphael and Eugene Smolensky). Part II assesses the ways childhood poverty influences adult outcomes. Markus Jäntti finds that poor American children are more likely to be poor adults than are children in many other industrialized countries. Part III focuses on current antipoverty policies and possible alternatives. Jane Waldfogel demonstrates that policies in other countries—such as sick leave, subsidized child care, and schedule flexibility—help low-wage parents better balance work and family responsibilities. Part IV considers how rethinking and redefining poverty might take antipoverty policies in new directions. Mary Jo Bane assesses the politics of poverty since the 1996 welfare reform act. Robert Haveman argues that income-based poverty measures should be expanded, as they have been in Europe, to include social exclusion and multiple dimensions of material hardships.

Changing Poverty, Changing Policies shows that thoughtful policy reforms can reduce poverty and promote opportunities for poor workers and their families. The authors’ focus on pragmatic measures that have real possibilities of being implemented in the United States not only provides vital knowledge about what works but real hope for change.

J. D. Vance
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal

"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

Sheldon Danziger
Conservatives often condemn the poor, particularly African-Americans, for having children out of wedlock, joblessness, dropping out of school, or tolerating crime. Liberals counter that, with more economic opportunity, the poor differ little from the nonpoor in these areas. In answer to both, Coping with Poverty points to the survival strategies of the poor and their multiple roles as parents, neighbors, relatives, and workers. Their attempts to balance multiple obligations occur within a context of limited information, social support, and resources. Their decisions may not always be the wisest, but they "make sense" in context.
Contributors use qualitative research methods to explore the influence of community, workplace, and family upon strategies for dealing with poverty. Promising young scholars delve into poor black inner-city neighborhoods and suburbs and middle-income black urban communities, exploring experiences at all stages of life, including high-school students, young parents, employed older men, and unemployed mothers. Two chapters discuss the role of qualitative research in poverty studies, specifically examining how this research can be used to improve policymaking.
The volume's contribution is in the diversity of experiences it highlights and in how the general themes it illustrates are similar across different age/gender groups. The book also suggests an approach to policymaking that seeks to incorporate the experiences and the needs of the poor themselves, in the hope of creating more successful and more relevant poverty policy. It is especially useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, public policy, urban studies, and African-American Studies, as its scope makes it THE basic reader of qualitative studies of poverty.
Sheldon Danziger is Director of the Poverty Research and Tranining Center and Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan. Ann Chih Lin is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan.
Matthew Desmond
WINNER OF THE 2017 PULITZER PRIZE GENERAL NON-FICTION 

From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
 
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE PEN/JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION | FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by The New York Times Book Review • The Boston Globe •  The Washington Post • NPR • Entertainment Weekly • The New Yorker • Bloomberg •  Esquire • Buzzfeed • Fortune • San Francisco Chronicle • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel • St. Louis Post-Dispatch •  Politico •  The Week • Bookpage • Kirkus Reviews •  Amazon •  Barnes and Noble Review •  Apple •  Library Journal • Chicago Public Library • Publishers Weekly • Booklist • Shelf Awareness
Sheldon Danziger
More and more young men and women today are taking longer and having more difficulty making a successful transition to adulthood. They are staying in school longer, having a harder time finding steady employment at jobs that provide health insurance, and are not marrying and having children until much later in life than their parents did. In The Price of Independence, a roster of distinguished experts diagnose the extent and causes of these trends.

Observers of social trends have speculated on the economic changes that may be delaying the transition to adulthood—from worsening job opportunities to mounting student debt and higher housing costs—but few have offered empirical evidence to back up their claims. The Price of Independence represents the first significant analysis of these economic explanations, charting the evolving life circumstances of eighteen to thirty-five year-olds over the last few decades. Lisa Bell, Gary Burtless, Janet Gornick, and Timothy M. Smeeding show that the earnings of young workers in the United States and a number of industrialized countries have declined relative to the cost of supporting a family, which may explain their protracted dependence. In addition, Henry Farber finds that job stability for young male workers has dropped over the last generation. But while economic factors have some influence on young people’s transitions to adulthood, The Price of Independence shows that changes in the economic climate can not account for the magnitude of the societal shift in the timing of independent living, marriage, and childbearing. Aaron Yelowitz debunks the myth that steep housing prices are forcing the young to live at home—housing costs actually fell between 1980 and 2000 once lower interest rates and tax subsidies are taken into account. And Ngina Chiteji reveals that average student loan debt is only $3,500 per household. The trend toward starting careers and families later appears to have more to do with changing social norms, as well as policies that have broadened access to higher education, than with changes in the economy.

For better or worse, the current generation is redefining the nature and boundaries of what it means to be a young adult. The Price of Independence documents just how dramatically the modern lifecycle has changed and offers evidence as an antidote to much of the conventional wisdom about these social changes.

Sheldon Danziger
Conservatives often condemn the poor, particularly African-Americans, for having children out of wedlock, joblessness, dropping out of school, or tolerating crime. Liberals counter that, with more economic opportunity, the poor differ little from the nonpoor in these areas. In answer to both, Coping with Poverty points to the survival strategies of the poor and their multiple roles as parents, neighbors, relatives, and workers. Their attempts to balance multiple obligations occur within a context of limited information, social support, and resources. Their decisions may not always be the wisest, but they "make sense" in context.
Contributors use qualitative research methods to explore the influence of community, workplace, and family upon strategies for dealing with poverty. Promising young scholars delve into poor black inner-city neighborhoods and suburbs and middle-income black urban communities, exploring experiences at all stages of life, including high-school students, young parents, employed older men, and unemployed mothers. Two chapters discuss the role of qualitative research in poverty studies, specifically examining how this research can be used to improve policymaking.
The volume's contribution is in the diversity of experiences it highlights and in how the general themes it illustrates are similar across different age/gender groups. The book also suggests an approach to policymaking that seeks to incorporate the experiences and the needs of the poor themselves, in the hope of creating more successful and more relevant poverty policy. It is especially useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, public policy, urban studies, and African-American Studies, as its scope makes it THE basic reader of qualitative studies of poverty.
Sheldon Danziger is Director of the Poverty Research and Tranining Center and Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan. Ann Chih Lin is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan.
Sheldon Danziger
More and more young men and women today are taking longer and having more difficulty making a successful transition to adulthood. They are staying in school longer, having a harder time finding steady employment at jobs that provide health insurance, and are not marrying and having children until much later in life than their parents did. In The Price of Independence, a roster of distinguished experts diagnose the extent and causes of these trends.

Observers of social trends have speculated on the economic changes that may be delaying the transition to adulthood—from worsening job opportunities to mounting student debt and higher housing costs—but few have offered empirical evidence to back up their claims. The Price of Independence represents the first significant analysis of these economic explanations, charting the evolving life circumstances of eighteen to thirty-five year-olds over the last few decades. Lisa Bell, Gary Burtless, Janet Gornick, and Timothy M. Smeeding show that the earnings of young workers in the United States and a number of industrialized countries have declined relative to the cost of supporting a family, which may explain their protracted dependence. In addition, Henry Farber finds that job stability for young male workers has dropped over the last generation. But while economic factors have some influence on young people’s transitions to adulthood, The Price of Independence shows that changes in the economic climate can not account for the magnitude of the societal shift in the timing of independent living, marriage, and childbearing. Aaron Yelowitz debunks the myth that steep housing prices are forcing the young to live at home—housing costs actually fell between 1980 and 2000 once lower interest rates and tax subsidies are taken into account. And Ngina Chiteji reveals that average student loan debt is only $3,500 per household. The trend toward starting careers and families later appears to have more to do with changing social norms, as well as policies that have broadened access to higher education, than with changes in the economy.

For better or worse, the current generation is redefining the nature and boundaries of what it means to be a young adult. The Price of Independence documents just how dramatically the modern lifecycle has changed and offers evidence as an antidote to much of the conventional wisdom about these social changes.

Rebecca M. Blank
Over the last three decades, large-scale economic developments, such as technological change, the decline in unionization, and changing skill requirements, have exacted their biggest toll on low-wage workers. These workers often possess few marketable skills and few resources with which to support themselves during periods of economic transition. In Working and Poor, a distinguished group of economists and policy experts, headlined by editors Rebecca Blank, Sheldon Danziger, and Robert Schoeni, examine how economic and policy changes over the last twenty-five years have affected the well-being of low-wage workers and their families.

Working and Poor examines every facet of the economic well-being of less-skilled workers, from employment and earnings opportunities to consumption behavior and social assistance policies. Rebecca Blank and Heidi Schierholz document the different trends in work and wages among less-skilled women and men. Between 1979 and 2003, labor force participation rose rapidly for these women, along with more modest increases in wages, while among the men both employment and wages fell. David Card and John DiNardo review the evidence on how technological changes have affected less-skilled workers and conclude that the effect has been smaller than many observers claim. Philip Levine examines the effectiveness of the Unemployment Insurance program during recessions. He finds that the program’s eligibility rules, which deny benefits to workers who have not met minimum earnings requirements, exclude the very people who require help most and should be adjusted to provide for those with the highest need. On the other hand, Therese J. McGuire and David F. Merriman show that government help remains a valuable source of support during economic downturns. They find that during the most recent recession in 2001, when state budgets were stretched thin, legislatures resisted political pressure to cut spending for the poor.

Working and Poor provides a valuable analysis of the role that public policy changes can play in improving the plight of the working poor. A comprehensive analysis of trends over the last twenty-five years, this book provides an invaluable reference for the public discussion of work and poverty in America.

A Volume in the National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy

Sheldon Danziger
More than ever, the economic health of a country depends upon the skills, knowledge, and capacities of its people. How does a person acquire these human assets and how can we promote their development? Securing the Future assembles an interdisciplinary team of scholars to investigate the full range of factors—pediatric, psychological, social, and economic—that bear on a child's development into a well-adjusted, economically productive member of society. A central purpose of the volume is to identify sound interventions that will boost human assets, particularly among the disadvantaged. The book provides a comprehensive evaluation of current initiatives and offers a wealth of new suggestions for effective public and private investments in child development.

While children from affluent, highly educated families have good quality child care and an expensive education provided for them, children from poor families make do with informal child care and a public school system that does not always meet their needs. How might we best redress this growing imbalance? The contributors to this volume recommend policies that treat academic attainment together with psychological development and social adjustment. Mentoring programs, for example, promote better school performance by first fostering a young person's motivation to learn. Investments made early in life, such as preschool education, are shown to have the greatest impact on later learning for the least cost.

In their focus upon children, however, the authors do not neglect the important links between generations. Poverty and inequality harm the development of parents and children alike. Interventions that empower parents to fight for better services and better schools are also of great benefit to their children.

Securing the Future shows how investments in child development are both a means to an end and an end in themselves. They benefit the child directly and they also help that child contribute to the well-being of society. This book points us toward more effective strategies for promoting the economic success and the social cohesion of future generations.

A Volume in the Ford Foundation Series on Asset Building

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