Legacies of the War on Poverty, by Martha J. Bailey and Sheldon Danziger (Eds.). Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 2013, 324 pages, softcover, $39.95.
Legacies of the War on Poverty examines the last 50 years of social welfare policy and its impact upon us today. It is a collaborative approach to refute the idea that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty was a disaster, and it accomplishes this with empirical data and analysis.
Legacies is split into three parts, each with its own chapter’s focus. The chapters of Part One focus on social issues with Head Start, primary education, secondary education, and workforce development programs. Chapters in Part Two examine the safety net for families in regard to food and finances, the safety net for seniors in regard to resources such as social security, and the sufficiency of housing programs. Chapters in Part Three examine the healthcare system in regard to the health insurance of adults and children, saving the last chapter for Medicare and Medicaid.
Each chapter starts by giving a brief history and introduction to the social welfare program in question, provides data in various forms (graphs, percentages), and concludes with notes and references. Although the book contains numerous data tables in each chapter, these may be a challenge for those with little experience with statistical analysis. The editors compensate for this, however, by tying the data in with the book through convenient intervals. A nice complement that the book provides is its periodic points that address public opinion, senatorial debate, and stigmas surrounding the welfare system.
Legacies of the War on Poverty begins abruptly with a quote from President Johnson, some research data, and a social welfare timeline, but one thing that’s missing is a foreword by the editors. A foreword would be a nice addition to this book, as it would give readers the opportunity to learn more about why the book was written. Another section of the book that seems to be missing is a conclusion, as the book ends abruptly after the final chapter. One important note about the book that readers may find ungratifying is that it seems to focus more on the funding for government programs rather than giving a first person look at the individuals living in poverty. Although Legacies could be improved upon, its greatest accomplishment is that it can be understood in crystal clarity, as the editors’ use of grammar has resulted in a book that will be readable throughout the ages.
Legacies of the War on Poverty is a great all-around textbook for social workers and non-social workers alike, as this book has something for everyone. It is best suited for students or political activists, as its research and statistical data can be invaluable whether a person is writing a college paper or fighting for social justice. Regardless of one’s intended use, it is a wonderful book for anyone who is interested in social justice, whether the reader is involved with social work, or would like to learn more about social welfare as a whole.
Reviewed by Garrett Hanson, Master of Social Work student, the University of South Dakota. He can be reached at Garrett.Hanson@coyotes.usd.edu.