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Older Americans in Poverty: A Snapshot

Older Americans in Poverty:  A Snapshot, is a chartbook and policy primer that examines the persistent problem of elderly poverty in the United States.  This chartbook provides valuable data on older adults in poverty—who they are, where they live, and the challenges they face affording basics like food, housing, and health care.  It describes the reliance of older poor and low-income families on Social Security, their use of public benefits, and their assets. 

The chartbook highlights wide variation in poverty rates by race and ethnicity, age, sex, and marital status.  For example, despite the sizable overall decline in elderly poverty since the 1960s, poverty remains unacceptably high for many, including older black and Hispanic women, more than a third of whom have incomes below poverty or just above the poverty line.

The chartbook also examines the problems with the official poverty statistic.  It explains what’s wrong with the current measure and describes the proposal to modernize the poverty measure to provide a more accurate assessment of how many people—including older adults—face severe economic hardship.  The chartbook closes with a discussion of policy options for reducing poverty at older ages.

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