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A homeless woman sits amid their belongings on a street in downtown Los Angeles, California, on January 8, 2014. Poverty in the world's largest economy remains far from being eradicated fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in America in his first State of the Union address on this date in 1964, with a US Census Bureau report revealing on January 7 that nearly one in three Americans experienced poverty for at least two months during the global recession between 2009 and 2011. And in 2012, poverty affected some 47 million Americans, including 13 million children.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a War on Poverty in America, and a half century later, President Obama is using the anniversary to establish poverty-fighting “Promise Zones” in a handful of cities across the across the country.
The first five cities chosen for the new initiative are San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. LA’s zone, which includes the Koreatown, Hollywood, Westlake and Pico-Union area, is set to receive tens of millions of federal improvement dollars, up to $500 million in the next decade.
The concept of “place-based subsidy,” which the “Promise Zone” program embodies, isn’t new, and economists have long debated the approach’s efficacy in eradicating poverty in any given idea. And Los Angeles already has its work cut out for it. According to a new report from the L.A. 2020 Commission, the city is economic as well as a leadership crisis, having failed to tackle both economic and standard-of-living issues.
What does money from this new program mean for some of the most poverty-stricken urban areas in the nation? How are legislators planning to use the money if the total amount has yet to be decided, and how will the inevitable brawl over where to spend the federal money play out?
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Mayor
Matthew Kahn, Professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment, the Department of Economics, and the Department of Public Policy. He was trained as an economist at the University of Chicago
Enrico Moretti, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of “The New Geography of Jobs” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)
Austin Beutner, Co-Chair, Los Angeles 2020 Commission; Former First Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles