Penn Arts and Sciences

The War on Poverty at 50: Its History and Legacy (Conference)

Friday, September 19, 2014 - 9:00am - 5:00pm

AS HISTORIAN MICHAEL KATZ has noted in a new edition of his classic, The Undeserving Poor, “poverty is deeply rooted” in American life. “Before the twentieth century, the nation lacked both the economic surplus and policy tools to eradicate it.” With the inception of the War on Poverty fifty years ago, however, economic abundance and new methods of providing social services joined together to confront poverty and, “for about a decade, this combination, backed by popular support and political will, did spectacularly well.” Since then, “poverty has been allowed to grow again.”

Honoring and critically appraising his work in its first roundtable session, the Penn SSPF fall conference, “The War on Poverty at 50: Its History and Legacy,” will bring together leading scholars and policy analysts to examine the key questions Katz raises. What worked and what did not in the War on Poverty? Were its successes and failures the outcome of methods or of political will? Where did the political will to declare such a war come from? And in twenty-first century America, can it ever be regained?


9:00-9:15 am
Thomas Sugrue (Director, Penn SSPF)

9:15-10:30 am
Roundtable on Michael Katz's The Undeserving Poor: America's Enduring Conflict with Poverty

Chair, Wendell Pritchett (Interim Dean, Penn Law)
Alice O'Connor
(University of California, Santa Barbara)
Peter Edelman (Georgetown University)
William Julius Wilson (Harvard)
Gareth Stedman Jones (Cambridge)

10:45 am-12:00 pm
Panel 1: Maximum Feasible Participation: Community, Poverty, and Policy

Crystal Sanders (Penn State): "More than Cookies and Crayons: Head Start and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi." 
Gretchen Aguiar: “Maximum Feasible Employment: Head Start Jobs and the War on Poverty”
Merlin Chowkwanyun (Wisconsin-Madison): "Beyond Medicare and Medicaid: The War on Poverty and Health Reform"

1:15-2:30 pm
Panel 2: The War on Poverty’s Neoliberal Legacies

Chair, Sophia Lee (Penn Law)
Karen Tani (UC-Berkeley Law School): "The Price of Rights: The Legal Services Program and the Constitutional Underpinnings of the Neoliberal Welfare State."
Heather Ann Thompson (Temple): “Fighting a War on Poverty and Waging a War on Crime: Rethinking the Welfare State/Carceral State Divide”
Brian Purnell (Bowdoin): “War on Poverty to War on the Poor: The Rise and Fall of First Generation Community Development Corporations, 1967-1985”
Comment, Amy Offner (Penn)

2:45-4:30 pm
Panel 3: The Fifty Years’ War: Poverty and Policy in an Age of Inequality

Felicia Kornbluh (Vermont): "Wars on Poverty, Wars on Welfare”
Annelise Orleck (Dartmouth): “Rethinking the War on Poverty in A New Age of Inequality: What's History Got to Do With Policy?”

Comment: Greg Kauffman (Center for American Progress)

4:30-5:00 pm
Closing Discussion

© 2014 The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania