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

Martha J. Bailey, Nicolas J. Duquette

NBER Working Paper No. 19860
Issued in January 2014, Revised in September 2014
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies, Public Economics

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19860

Published: Bailey, Martha J. & Duquette, Nicolas J., 2014. "How Johnson Fought the War on Poverty: The Economics and Politics of Funding at the Office of Economic Opportunity," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(02), pages 351-388, June. citation courtesy of

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