The NYT had a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty. One item that is worth noting is that the poverty rate actually fell sharply through the sixties and into the early seventies. Then the economy was derailed by the oil price shocks and the recessions that followed in 1974-75 and then again at the end of the 1970s. Then President Reagan got elected and surrendered.

Since the poverty rate is ostensibly based on an absolute living standard, the failure to make any progress over the last fifty years really is striking. If we had seen the same growth rate over this period with no increase in inequality, poverty would have been almost completely eliminated. The rise in inequality over the last three decades explains the lack of progress on reducing poverty.