According to a research brief released January 27 by the Urban Institute, an estimated 13 million Americans age 65 and older live in low income families. Low income individuals are defined as those with incomes of less than double the poverty level. In 2009, the poverty level for a single person living independently was $10,289. The poverty rate for these older families was 8.9 %.
Among the various demographic categories the researchers considered, the poverty rate among older Americans was highest for women (10.7%), African-Americans (18.9%), and persons 85 years old or older (11.6%). While nearly 9% of all older adults live in poverty, among older adults with poor health the poverty rate is a much higher 16.7%. Poverty is also more prevalent among those without a high school diploma. Older people living with a spouse or with older children were much less likely to be poor than those who were on their own. For example, the poverty rate for those who were had a spouse was 4.6%, while it was 14.9% for those who lived alone but were previously married.
While the primary focus of the report is on Americans 65 years of age or older, it also offers a brief comparison of poverty rates among those 64 years old and younger. Research findings reveal that during the Great Recession, older adults have fared better on average than younger people. Aided by the 5.8% increase in benefits from the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, the poverty rate for adults 65 years old and older declined from 9.71% to 8.9% between 2007 and 2009, while the rate for younger people rose to 20.7% from 18.0%.
The data in the report are from the 2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) and the Current Population Survey (CPS).
For more information about poverty statistics for older Americans, poverty threshold measures, the data sets, and the study sample visit http://www.urban.org/publications/412296.html