Friday, December 10, 2010

New Study Shows Half of Seniors May Experience Poverty

Nearly half of all elders between 60 and 90 will experience one year of poverty, according to a study released this week in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services.

“Of course, this risk is not evenly distributed across the population. One of the most drastic economic divides is race,” notes the researcher, Mark R. Rank, Ph.D. The percentages of people who will experience at least one year below the federal poverty level by different demographic groups include:

• Race: 32.7% of white older Americans; 64.6% of black older Americans

• Marital Status: 51.2% of unmarried older Americans; 24.9% of married older Americans

• Education: 48.4% of those with fewer than 12 years of education; 20.5% for those with 12 or more years of education

This new research confirms the importance of the Elder Economic Security Initiative and the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index). A comparison of the Elder Index to other measures of income (shown in the chart below) makes its relevance clear. Average annual Social Security income provides an older woman renter with only 61% of the income required to achieve economic security, compared to 81% for an older man.

The data shown by the Elder Index and the new report on elder poverty demonstrate the need to increase the benefit adequacy for Social Security recipients and to increase access to income support programs for seniors. Dr. Rank notes “legislators should consider policies that encourage greater levels of savings among the working-age population, facilitating cooperative living arrangements among the elderly, establishing fair terms with respect to reverse mortgage programs, and strengthening the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs.”

The time to act is now. Join your state’s Elder Economic Security Initiative to help rid poverty among our nation’s elders. The Initiative is currently active in 17 states; find out if your state is one of them.

Maggie Flowers
Field Manager
Elder Economic Security Initiative

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