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War on Poverty: After 50 years, Emory experts say it must go on

Jan. 23, 2014

In January of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty in his State of the Union address. Much has changed since that day 50 years, but the war continues.  

Emory University political science professors Michael Leo Owens and Michael Rich say while we haven’t won the war, it has helped.

“Without any of these [War on Poverty] programs, particularly the initial programs like Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, and a variety of other things, without any of those things, the poverty rate would be much, much higher than it actually is,” says Owens, an expert in African American politics and public policy.

“Elderly poverty was cut in half,” explains Rich, a political science professor and public policy expert. “Poverty among children [and] poverty among working age adults also dropped sharply.”

Rich and Owens say the key to getting more people out of poverty is helping them find good-paying jobs and providing any training and education necessary. They say this can only be completed with a collaborative effort between public and private entities.