How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity
38 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2014 Last revised: 4 Jul 2021
Date Written: 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 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.
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