The “War on Poverty”: What Worked? What Went Wrong?


By Martha J. Bailey
Nov 26, 2012 Bookmark and Share

With funding from the Ford and Russell Sage Foundations, Martha J. Bailey is co-editing a volume with Sheldon Danziger, The Legacy and Lessons of the War on Poverty: Implications for the Future, which will contain ten commissioned chapters by leading researchers on the 50-year record of the War on Poverty’s main achievements and failures. 

The War on Poverty is generally defined as the period from 1965 to 1974 during which progressive legislation restructured a variety of US social and health programmes to combat poverty. This included a substantial increase in funding for elementary, secondary and higher education, the launch of Medicare and Medicaid, and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, which altered the legal protections afforded to African-Americans and other minorities. For this volume, Martha Bailey will examine the War on Poverty’s longer-term effects on the well-being of adults and children – effects of considerable social science and policy significance and contentiousness since the 1970s. 

Ms Bailey’s previous research has investigated US women’s integration into the paid workforce during the twentieth century, seeking to understand its implications for economic theory, policy formulation, and long-run economic growth. Her methodology blends the tools and perspectives of economic history and economic demography with econometric techniques typically employed in labour economics. Her published research has appeared in the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the American Economic Journal, and the Journal of Economic History. In May 2009 she received the Distinguished Research Affiliate Award given by the Employment and Social Protection Area of the CESifo Research Network, for the best conference paper by a young economist. 

While at CESifo in October, she will present a paper on “The Long-term Effects of Family Planning Programs on US Children” (with Olga Malkova and Zoe McLaren) at the CESifo Economic Studies and Uppsala Center for Labor Studies (UCLS) Conference on Families, Children and Human Capital Formation. She will also conduct research on German parental leave policies, studying their effects on firms’ hiring, promotion, and compensation decisions, and well as on women’s decisions about childbearing and labour market participation. 

Martha J. Bailey is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan, a Research Affiliate at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center and National Poverty Center, and a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

She has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Economic History and is currently the journal’s book review editor. She also currently serves on the editorial board of Essays in Economic and Business History.