Poverty and the Government in America
A Historical Encyclopedia
by Jyotsna Sreenivasan
October 2009, 682pp, 7x10
2 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-59884-168-8
$191, £142, 160€, A273
eBook Available: 978-1-59884-169-5
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Poverty has troubled American society since its earliest days, but it was not until the early 20th century and the financial collapse of the Great Depression that Americans decided their government should take a direct role in helping economically distressed citizens.

The most comprehensive encyclopedia available on the U.S. government's responses to poverty from the colonial era to the present day.

Poverty and the Government in America: A Historical Encyclopedia looks at one of the most important and controversial issues in U.S. history. Debated vigorously every election year, poverty is a topic that no politician at any level of government can escape. Ranging from colonial times to the New Deal, from Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty to welfare reform and beyond, it is the only encyclopedia focused exclusively on policy initiatives aimed at underprivileged citizens and the impact of those initiatives on the nation.

Poverty and the Government in America offers over 170 entries on policies implemented to alleviate poverty—their historic contexts, rationales, and legacies. The encyclopedia also features separate essays on how poverty has been addressed at federal, state, local, and Native American tribal levels throughout U.S. history. Complimented by a richly detailed chronology and a wealth of primary documents, these features help readers grasp both the broad contours of government efforts to fight poverty and the details and results of specific policies.


  • 170 alphabetically organized entries on policy directives, legislation, important individuals, and organizations that have influenced government approaches to dealing with poverty in the United States
  • Cross-referenced introductory essays on poverty and policy at the federal, state, local, and tribal-government level across the breadth of U.S. history
  • A chronology with entries highlighting the evolution of policies and attitudes concerning the government’s role in economic issues
  • 40 primary source documents detailing major government policies towards poverty, such as FDR's Bill of Economic Rights
  • Sidebars highlighting defining moments in the implementation of policies to poor relief policies, as well as profiles on the individuals involved in developing those policies
Jyotsna Sreenivasan is a professional writer. Her published works include Ela Bhatt: Uniting Women in India and ABC-CLIO's Utopias in American History. She is also the author of three children's books and her short fiction has been published in numerous literary magazines.


"Recommended for high school, public, and college libraries, especially those supporting a curriculum need."—Library Journal, February 1, 2010

"Recommended for college and public libraries."—Booklist, February 15, 2010

"This is a two-volume encyclopedia containing 170 alphabetical, cross-referenced entries — from 'Jane Addams' to 'Works Progress Administration' — detailing historical aspects of governmental involvement in fighting poverty in the United States. The essays cover policy directives, legislations, important individuals, organizations, and concepts, including, to name just a few, the Black Panther Party, child abuse and poverty, the Civil Rights Movement, Eugene Debs, the earned income tax credit, the Family and Medical Leave Act, homeless shelters, Herbert Hoover, the Indian New Deal, labor unions, living-wage laws, Huey Long, the National Labor Relations Act, private charity, Margaret Sanger, segregation laws, teen pregnancy prevention, and vouchers. Also included are introductory essays describing poverty responses at the levels of local, state, federal, and tribal governments."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2010

"This is a useful information source for students, practitioners, and citizens in political science, education, justice studies, human rights, and social activism. Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers."—Choice, April 1, 2010

"Librarians should consider this set, as its historical perspective is extensive, its writing style clear, and its material is useful."—School Library Journal, April 1, 2010

"...this scholarly guide will be useful to libraries supporting programs in governmental affairs and public policy."—Lawrence Looks at Books, February 1, 2010

"For a topic that may appear on the surface to be niche in scope, Sreenivasan ultimately delivers a useful and broadly applicable reference work."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, June 8, 2010

"Jyotsna Sreenivasan has written almost 700 pages on poverty and she has written them in a wonderfully clear and readable way....I can certainly commend this book as a workmanlike addition to the library shelves..."—Reference Reviews, September 1, 2010
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