A study entitled The Likelihood of Experiencing Relative Poverty over the Life Course, by Mark Rank of Washington University and Thomas Hirschl of Cornell University, reports that three out of five adults (61.8%) will experience poverty before the age of 60. Two out of five (42.1%) will experience extreme poverty.
The authors defined poverty as family income in the bottom 20th percentile of the income distribution, and extreme poverty as family income in the bottom 10th percentile.
Young adults and people over the age of 55 are more likely to experience poverty than those in their prime working years. The study found that 46.9% of 25 to 34 year olds, and 38.9% of 55 to 64 year olds experience at least one year of poverty, a higher percentage than the 31.1% of 35 to 44 year olds and 28.8% of 45 to 54 year olds. The researchers also found that younger, nonwhite, female, unmarried and less-educated people are more likely to experience poverty.
Long-term poverty of five or more years is a less common experience than shorter spells. While 61.8% of adults experience at least one year of poverty, 45% experience it for two or more years, 24.9% for five or more years, and 11.9% for ten or more years. These years, however, are not necessarily consecutive. People tend to fluctuate in and out of poverty. Only 5.6% of the population experience ten consecutive years in poverty.
The study draws on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a longitudinal survey that initially included 18,000 individuals from 4,800 households in 1968, continuing to track them over time.
The Likelihood of Experiencing Relative Poverty over the Life Course, is available at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133513