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 (who passed away on August 23) 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
Welcome (View on YouTube)
Thomas Sugrue (Director, Penn SSPF)

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

Chair, Wendell Pritchett (Interim Dean, Penn Law)
Peter Edelman (Georgetown University)
Ira Katznelson (Columbia University and the Social Science Research Council)
Alice O'Connor (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Gareth Stedman Jones (Queen Mary University of London)
William Julius Wilson (Harvard)

10:45 am-12:00 pm
Panel 1: Maximum Feasible Participation: Community, Poverty, and Policy (View on YouTube)

Chair, Eric Schneider (Penn)
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"
Crystal Sanders (Penn State): "More than Cookies and Crayons: Head Start and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi."
Comment, Dorothy Roberts (Penn Law)

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

Chair, Sophia Lee (Penn Law)
Brian Purnell
(Bowdoin): “War on Poverty to War on the Poor: The Rise and Fall of First Generation Community Development Corporations, 1967-1985”
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”
Comment, Amy Offner (Penn)

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

Chair, Roberta Iversen (Penn Social Policy and Practice)
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 Kaufmann (Center for American Progress)

4:30-5:00 pm
Closing Discussion (View on YouTube)

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