Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 12 No. 1 (Winter 1998)


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Did We Lose the War on Poverty?

Article Citation

Jorgenson, Dale W. 1998. "Did We Lose the War on Poverty?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(1): 79-96.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.1.79


Official U.S. poverty statistics based on household income imply that the proportion of the U.S. population below the poverty level reached a minimum in 1973, giving rise to the widespread impression that the elimination of poverty is impossible. By contrast, poverty estimates based on household consumption have fallen through 1989 and imply that the war on poverty was a success. This paper recommends replacing income by consumption in official estimates of poverty in order to obtain a more accurate assessment of the impact of income support programs and economic growth on the level and distribution of economic well-being among households.

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Jorgenson, Dale W. (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

I38: Welfare and Poverty: Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
I31: General Welfare


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