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Poverty Experience of Older Persons: A Poverty Study from a Long-Term Perspective

Given that the annual official poverty rate for older persons in the United States is now lower than the poverty rate for the entire population, (1) are older Americans more or less likely than younger persons to fall into poverty for a long period, and (2) are older Americans more or less likely than younger persons to escape poverty after they become poor?

To examine individual poverty status from a long-term perspective, focusing particularly on older persons, the study reported in this AARP Public Policy Institute Issue Paper by Ke Bin Wu uses a longitudinal survey, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which allows the tracking of poverty status for the same individuals over a 12-year period.

A comprehensive analysis finds that individuals' poverty transitions in their older years are significantly different from that in their earlier years. During the 12-year period (1981-1992), the annual official poverty rate for the older population was lower than that for persons under age 65. Yet, when the same persons were traced continuously over the same period, the picture was quite different: older persons, especially older women, still experience higher rates of long-term poverty than younger age groups do. (31 pages)

Pub ID: 2003-02

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