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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 directed funding in ways consistent with the War on Poverty's rhetoric of fighting poverty and racial discrimination: poorer areas and those with a greater share of nonwhite residents received systematically more funding. In contrast to New Deal spending, political variables explain very little of the variation in EOA funding. The smaller role of politics may help explain the strong backlash against the War on Poverty's programs.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha J. Bailey & Nicolas J. Duquette, 2014. "How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity," NBER Working Papers 19860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19860
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Jens Ludwig & Douglas L. Miller, 2007. "Does Head Start Improve Children's Life Chances? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 159-208.
    3. Martha J. Bailey & Andrew Goodman-Bacon, 2015. "The War on Poverty's Experiment in Public Medicine: Community Health Centers and the Mortality of Older Americans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1067-1104, March.
    4. Depew, Briggs & Fishback, Price V. & Rhode, Paul W., 2013. "New deal or no deal in the Cotton South: The effect of the AAA on the agricultural labor structure," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 466-486.
    5. 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, vol. 4(2), pages 62-97, April.
    6. 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, vol. 67(4), pages 849-883, December.
    7. 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, vol. 40(3), pages 278-307, July.
    8. Marilyn Young & Michael Reksulak & William F. Shughart, 2001. "The Political Economy of the IRS," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 201-220, July.
    9. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(1), pages 445-482.
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    11. Evelyn L. Forget, 2011. "A Tale of Two Communities: Fighting Poverty in the Great Society (1964–68)," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 43(1), pages 199-223, Spring.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Martha J. Bailey & Hilary W. Hoynes & Maya Rossin-Slater & Reed Walker, 2020. "Is the Social Safety Net a Long-Term Investment? Large-Scale Evidence from the Food Stamps Program," NBER Working Papers 26942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Eli, Shari & Salisbury, Laura, 2016. "Patronage Politics and the Development of the Welfare State: Confederate Pensions in the American South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1078-1112, December.
    4. Ariel Marek Pihl, 2018. "Head Start and Mothers' Work: Free Child Care or Something More?," Working Papers 18-13, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Jean Lacroix, 2020. "Ballots instead of Bullets? The effect of the Voting Rights Act on political violence," Working Papers CEB 20-007, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Andrew Goodman-Bacon & Jamein P. Cunningham, 2019. "Changes in Family Structure and Welfare Participation Since the 1960s: The Role of Legal Services," NBER Working Papers 26238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Martha J. Bailey & John DiNardo & Bryan A. Stuart, 2020. "The Economic Impact of a High National Minimum Wage: Evidence from the 1966 Fair Labor Standards Act," NBER Working Papers 26926, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martha J. Bailey & Andrew Goodman-Bacon, 2015. "The War on Poverty's Experiment in Public Medicine: Community Health Centers and the Mortality of Older Americans," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1067-1104, March.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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