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Identifying the Poorest Older Americans

  • Jonathan D. Fisher
  • David S. Johnson
  • Joseph T. Marchand
  • Timothy M. Smeeding
  • Barbara B. Torrey

Objectives: Public policies generally target a subset of the population defined as poor or needy, but rarely are people poor or needy in the same way. This is particularly true among older adults, as they have fewer options to compensate for financial decisions made earlier in life. This study investigates poverty among this group in order to identify who among them is financially worst off. Methods: We use 20 years of data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey to examine the income and consumption of older Americans. Results: The poverty rate is cut in fourth if both income and consumption are used to define poverty. Those most likely to be poor using a combined measure over both income and consumption are women, widows, blacks, and renters. The income poor alone display sufficient assets to raise consumption above poverty thresholds, while the consumption poor are shown to have income just above the poverty threshold and have few assets. Discussion: The poorest among the older population are those who are income and consumption poor. Understanding the nature of this double poverty population is important in measuring the success of future public policies to reduce poverty among this group.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/geronb/gbp022
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Article provided by Gerontological Society of America in its journal Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Volume (Year): 64B (2009)
Issue (Month): 6 ()
Pages: 758-766

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Handle: RePEc:oup:geronb:v:64b:y:2009:i:6:p:758-766
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