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Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address.

Let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined; as the session which enacted the most far-reaching tax cut of our time; as the session which declared all-out war on human poverty and unemployment in these United States; as the session which finally recognized the health needs of all our older citizens; [...]

The War on Poverty include several social programs

We are coming up on the 50th year of LBJ's War on Poverty, How effective has the war on poverty been at eliminating poverty? What percentage of the population is living in poverty today as compared to 1963, after LBJ's war on poverty?

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This page from Politifact.com goes over a lot of the relevant data. Since 1965, total poverty rates have been reduced from 17.3% to 14.3%. However (as the other answer shows as well), these rates are somewhat dependent on the economy. Before the recession, poverty rates were even lower, at 12.5%.

For some groups in particular, poverty rates have dropped dramatically. 30% of the elderly were poor in 1965. Now, only 13.2% are. Poverty rates for African Americans have also dropped similarly.

In general, social welfare programs tend to reduce poverty. America has eliminated 26.4% of its poverty from 1967 to 2002 through the use of social welfare programs, and many other countries managed to reduce poverty levels even more during that period.

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The poverty rate has fluctuated along with the economy, but is approximately the same now as it was in 1965.

Chart showing US poverty rates from 1959 to 2011

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  • From the graph, it appears that the poverty rate was about 19-20% in 1963, before the LBJ legislation. Does this mean that a 4% improvement was reached? – user1873 Jul 21 '13 at 1:00

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