More Americans Aging Into Poverty

After falling last decade, the numbers once again trend upward

A recent study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that, despite falling during the first part of the last decade, the number of poverty-stricken seniors is once again growing.

Between 2005 and 2009, both the rate of poverty among American seniors and the number of new entrants into poverty rose, according to the report.

The EBRI report found that poverty rates fell in the first half of the last decade for almost all age groups of older Americans (age 50 or older), though they increased since 2005 for every age group.

Almost 15% of those older than 85 were in poverty in 2009, compared with about 10.5% of those older than 65, EBRI found. In 2009, 6% of those age 85 older fell into poverty.

Several factors account for the trend, according to Sudipto Banerjee, the author of the report.

“As people age, personal savings and pension account balances are depleted, and as people age, their medical expenditures tend to increase,” Banerjee said. “Also, the rising poverty rates noted correspond to the two economic recessions that occurred during the last decade.”

Among the EBRI report’s other findings:

  • In 2009, the poverty rate for Hispanics was 21 percentage points higher than for whites, while for blacks it was 17 percentage points higher than for whites.
  • Poverty rates for women were nearly double that of men for almost all years in the survey period. For example, in 2009, poverty rates were 7% for men and 13% for women.
  • More than 1 in 5 single women over age 65, or 20.9%, lived in poverty in 2009.
  • The odds of suffering a health condition rise between 45% and 55% for those below the poverty line.

The data for the study come from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.  

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