Published Online: January 23, 2014

War on Poverty: Progress and Persistent Inequity

President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty this month in 1964. Fifty years later, the faces and dynamics of child poverty in the United States have changed dramatically, but the nation's approach to ending it is still based largely on the policies and programs laid out then.

This package is a series of articles in Education Week over the next 18 months to reflect on the anniversary of the War on Poverty and its impact on the lives of children, especially those living in poverty.

Future installments will look in greater depth at some of the specific programs begun in the landmark anti-poverty campaign, including Head Start, and the Title I program for disadvantaged students.

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Life Inside the Projects: A single mother of four describes what it's like to raise a family in Potomac Gardens, a massive 1960s-era public housing project in Washington.

Housing Assistance

50 Years Later, Housing Programs' Reach Is Limited

The housing programs expanded through the War on Poverty provide stability for many assisted families, but their children still often grow up in concentrated poverty. Read the story →

Left: Dashawn Smith, 6, left, looks over at his friend Malachi Davis, 10, outside the Potomac Gardens public-housing complex in Washington. The fence was erected around the property to keep out drug dealers and other criminals. —Swikar Patel/Education Week

Beyond ZIP Codes: Districts Look to Promote Economically Integrated Schools
When housing programs fail to break up concentrated poverty in neighborhoods, some experts argue that school districts should step in to promote economic diversity in the classroom. Read the story →


50 Years Later, War on Poverty Yields Mixed Success

While child poverty remains a stubborn enemy, the federal anti-poverty initiative launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson has led to health and IQ gains for disadvantaged students. Read the story →

Then and Now: Children play at recess outside of Hays-Porter Elementary School in Cincinnati's West End neighborhood. The yearbook photo on the left depicts the neighborhood around 1990. On the right, Aaryn Hill, 9, and her 2nd grade classmates stand in the same spot earlier this month. The school is still largely racially and economically segregated, despite decades of government anti-poverty efforts. —Photos from left: Hays-Porter Elementary School, Swikar Patel/Education Week

Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit to Cincinnati's West End
Fifty years after the War on Poverty began, schools serving children in Cincinnati's West End are still largely segregated by economics and race. Read the story →

Analysis Points to Growth in Per-Pupil Spending—and Disparities
Since the War on Poverty, the average gap in per-pupil spending between two states grew by 256 percent, an Education Week analysis finds. Read the story →

Interactive: Timeline
In the 1960s and today, children under 18 are the most likely Americans to live in poverty. Many of the initiatives launched under President Johnson's social programs were designed to reduce poverty through education and child health. Explore the major events →

Explore the Data

A Look at Child-Poverty Rates →

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Education Week looked at the trends over time of children under 18 living in poverty. Use this interactive to explore the year-by-year overview.


Exploring Per-Pupil Spending →

Per-pupil school spending has skyrocketed since the 1960s—as have the disparities among states. Use this visualization to see what your state is spending. Additional charts illustrate changes in state per-pupil spending from 1969-70 to 2009-10 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Vol. 33, Issue 18