Poverty Among Seniors: An Updated Analysis of National and State Level Poverty Rates Under the Official and Supplemental Poverty Measures

A new more accurate measure of poverty and near poverty show that both more extensive among the elderly than indicated by earlier research. For example 45% of the elderly are under 200% of the new federal poverty level used in this study.

Payments from Social Security and Supplemental Security Income have played a critical role in enhancing economic
security and reducing poverty rates among people ages 65 and older. Yet many older adults live on limited incomes, and have modest savings.In 2013, half of all people on Medicare had incomes less than $23,500, which is equivalent to 200 percent of poverty in 2015. In recent policy discussions, some have proposed policies to strengthen financial protections under Medicare for lower-income seniors, while others would impose greater costs on beneficiaries along with other changes to scale back spending on Medicare, Social Security and other programs. This brief presents data on poverty rates among seniors, as context for understanding the implications of potential changes to federal and state programs that help to bolster financial security among older adults.

This analysis presents national and state-level poverty rates among people ages 65 and older, based on two measures from the U.S. Census Bureau, using data from the 2014 Current Population Survey (CPS) and pooled 2012-2014 CPS for state-level data: the official poverty measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM differs from the official poverty measure in a number of ways to reflect available financial resources, including liabilities (such as taxes), the value of in-kind benefits (such as food stamps), out-of-pocket medical spending (which is generally higher among older adults), geographic variations in housing expenses, and other factors. According to the Census Bureau, about one in seven people ages 65 and older (15%) have incomes below the SPM poverty thresholds, compared to one in ten (10%) under the official measure.

– Kaiser Family Foundation

Read the full Issue Brief here.