Old Age is Increasingly a Gateway to Poverty

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
(AP Photo)
Things were looking up for seniors until the last decade. During the 1980s and 1990s, poverty declined among older Americans. But this trend began to reverse, especially after 2005, with poverty levels increasing for both seniors and younger citizens.
In recent years, poverty rates have particularly worsened as seniors reach their eighties. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found poverty rates rising for all sub-groups over the age of 64. The rate is lower for those 65-74, probably because they begin to collect Social Security benefits, but the poverty rate climbs sharply for those aged 85 and older.
The situation was also worse for older minorities and women. The poverty rate for women was double that of men, and blacks and Latinos struggled more than white seniors.
The author of the study, Sudipto Banerjee, attributes the rise in poverty to a variety of factors: “As people age, personal savings and pension account balances deplete. The total Social Security benefit received by a family is reduced with the death of a spouse. These factors potentially lead to rising poverty at older ages. Also, as people age, their medical expenditure increases steadily.”
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:

Time Trends in Poverty for Older Americans Between 2001-2009 (by Sudipto Banerjee, Employee Benefit Research Institute) (pdf) 


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