Profile America: The War on Poverty

President Lyndon B. Johnson spearheaded the War on Poverty during his Great Society era.

President Lyndon B. Johnson spearheaded the War on Poverty during his Great Society era.

The first salvo in what we’ve come to know as the War on Poverty was fired on this date 53 years ago. Following President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union call for tackling poverty in America, the Economic Opportunity Act was introduced, and passed by Congress. The landmark legislation was signed into law in August 1964.

The poverty rate in 1965, at the implementation of the programs, was around 16 percent, down from some 23 percent in 1959. The poverty rate continued to fall to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973. The past four decades has seen that rate edge upward. Last September, the Census Bureau reported the official U.S. poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, encompassing 43.1 million people.

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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