Acton Institute Powerblog

By the Numbers: The War on Poverty

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povertyFifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave his 1964 State of the Union Speech, in which he launched the ‘war on poverty.’ Within four years of that speech, the Johnson administration enacted a broad ran of programs, including the the Job Corps, Upward Bound, Head Start, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Social Security amendments creating Medicare/Medicaid, the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and over a dozen others.

Here are a few numbers related to governmental efforts to eradicate poverty in America:


33 million — Number of Americans who were living in poverty when the ‘war on poverty’ was declared in 1964.

46.5 million — Number of Americans who are living in poverty today.

19% — Poverty rate in 1964.

15% — Poverty rate in 2013.

126 — Current number of different federal programs aimed at fighting poverty

$15,000,000,000,000 — Total local, state, and federal spending on welfare programs since the beginning of the ‘war on poverty.’

$1,000,000,000,000 —Amount the U.S. spends annually on welfare programs.

$20,610 — Annual amount spent for every poor person in America ($61,830 per poor family of three).

25% – Poverty rate among single-dads.

31% — Poverty rate among single moms.

6% — Poverty rate among married couples.

0.001% — Poverty rate among married couples who both have full-time jobs.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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