50 Years of the War on Poverty: What it Meant for the Elderly

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When Lyndon Johnson announced his War on Poverty in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, the poverty rate for the elderly was approximately 35 percent. In the 50 years since the speech, the poverty rate for the elderly has fallen to just below 10 percent, below that of other age groups and less than one-half of that for children. I will discuss the role of various social insurance programs in this dramatic decline. I will also explain how the poverty rate is currently calculated and the extent to which these numbers accurately depict the situation for the elderly.

The 2015 Phi Beta Kappa lecture features Dr. Kathleen McGarry, UCLA Professor of Economics and Research Associate at NBER.

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