50 Years Since the War on Poverty: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Date: March 11, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

The War on Poverty is 50 years old. In his first State of the Union address in January 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced his ambitious goal to improve the outlook for the millions of Americans who “live on the outskirts of hope.” But it was not until March that he forwarded the initial legislative proposals that would begin a remarkable period of legislative activity.

Many programs that form the foundation of our social safety net (such as Food Stamps/SNAP, Social Security, Head Start, and Medicaid) were created or bolstered as part of this burst of historic bipartisan policymaking designed to improve health, education, and economic outcomes. Yet today’s gridlocked Congress no longer seems to share a broad commitment to these programs, and too many Americans still live on the economic margins.

What have we accomplished in the past 50 years? Where have we fallen short? And how can we update our policies to reflect a new 21st century antipoverty agenda? Please join New America and the Center for American Progress for a discussion designed to make sense of this legacy.

Expert panelists will consider the historic roots of the War on Poverty, how anti-poverty approaches have evolved over time, and the legacy’s impact on contemporary policy debates, such as eligibility for public assistance, the role of assets, and the call for a higher minimum wage. Our goal will be to take stock of what modern families need to get ahead, consider how public perception and political discourse shape the anti-poverty agenda, and elevate promising new approaches to help all families move up the economic ladder.


Alice O’Connor
Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara
Author, Poverty Knowledge: Social Science, Social Policy, and the Poor

William Elliott III
Associate Professor and Director of Assets and Education Initiative, University of Kansas

Josh Barro
National Correspondent, New York Times

Melissa Boteach
Vice President, Poverty and Prosperity Program, Center for American Progress
Vice President, Half in Ten Campaign, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Kilolo Kijakazi
Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Reid Cramer
Director, Asset Building Program, New America Foundation
Co-Editor, The Assets Perspective: The Rise of Asset Building and its Impact on Social Policy

Elise Gould
Economist, Economic Policy Institute

Shawn Fremstad
Senior Research Associate, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Rachel Black
Senior Policy Analyst, Asset Building Program, New America Foundation

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For questions, contact Liana Simonds at New America at (202) 735-2829 or