The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 included the Job Corps, the
college Work-Study Program and Head Start, but the following two
year period also saw the creation of cornerstone programs such as
Food Stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, HUD and others that today remain
integral parts of the U.S. safety net.
This special podcast report describes a new study by center
director Ann Stevens and graduate student affiliate Chloe East
that examines how many workers at or near the minimum wage still
rely on safety net programs to help their families get by.
Some safety net programs, such as unemployment insurance (UI) and
food stamps (SNAP), have shown to automatically stabilize income
during financial downturns. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
raises millions of American workers out of poverty, but its
impact in times of crisis has not been explored.
Jan. 8 marks the 50th anniversary of legislation launching
America’s War on Poverty. The story of that war is often told
with a sort of reverse Hollywood ending: oversimplified and
wrapped up neatly as a failure. No one can claim that the war on
poverty has been won, but the failure narrative is just as wrong.
The real story with some fundamental facts highlighted is more
complex than simple wins and losses, and long overdue.
The War on Poverty began in 1964 with a stream of legislation that in two years would build the foundation of today’s social safety net. Today’s safety net includes means-tested programs, which require proof of low income to qualify, as well as major benefit programs which are not based on income, such as Social Security and Medicare.
In this presentation, Martha Bailey discusses a quantitative
history of the War on Poverty.
Bailey is an Associate Professor of Economics and a Research
Associate Professor at the Population Studies Center at the
University of Michigan. She is also a Research Associate with the
National Bureau of Economic Research.
Transitions into and out of poverty often happen after major
events such as marriage, divorce, or changes in income. They are
also associated with economic factors, such as unemployment rates
The 1996 welfare reform led to sweeping changes to the central
cash safety net program for families with children. Along with
other changes, the reform imposed lifetime time limits for
receipt of cash welfare, effectively ending its entitlement
nature for these families.
Despite dire predictions, previous research has shown that
program caseloads declined and employment increased, with no
detectible increase in poverty or worsening of child well-being.
This study reevaluates these results in light of the severe
In this October 2013 seminar, Center Faculty Affiliate Sasha
Abramsky discussed his work researching and writing about today’s
poor for his new book The American Way of Poverty: How the
Other Half Still Lives.
In this May 2012 seminar, Visiting Scholars Katherine S.
Newman and Rourke O’Brien discuss the way we tax the poor in the
United States, particularly in the American South, where poor
families are often subject to income taxes, and where regressive
sales taxes apply even to food for home consumption.
Linking income and health has been a notorious challenge for
researchers. With multiple sources of income such as earnings,
cash transfer and near cash transfer programs, it is difficult to
isolate their effects on health. The 1993 expansion to the Earned
Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest and most recent of federal
expansions to date, provided researchers a unique opportunity.