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

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  • Martha J. Bailey
  • Nicolas J. Duquette

Abstract

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19860.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19860

Note: DAE LS PE
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  1. Elizabeth Cascio & Nora Gordon & Ethan Lewis & Sarah Reber, 2010. "Paying for Progress: Conditional Grants and the Desegregation of Southern Schools," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 445-482, February.
  2. Martha J. Bailey, 2012. "Reexamining the Impact of Family Planning Programs on US Fertility: Evidence from the War on Poverty and the Early Years of Title X," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 62-97, April.
  3. Ludwig, Jens & Miller, Douglas L., 2006. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," IZA Discussion Papers 2111, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Collins, William J. & Margo, Robert A., 2007. "The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots in American Cities: Evidence from Property Values," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(04), pages 849-883, December.
  5. Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn & Wallis, John Joseph, 2003. "Can the New Deal's three Rs be rehabilitated? A program-by-program, county-by-county analysis," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 278-307, July.
  6. Wright, Gavin, 1974. "The Political Economy of New Deal Spending: An Econometric Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(1), pages 30-38, February.
  7. Whatley, Warren C., 1987. "Southern Agrarian Labor Contracts as Impediments to Cotton Mechanization," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(01), pages 45-70, March.
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