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One in six older Americans lives below the federal poverty line

Amber Martin
Published: January 24, 2011

One in six older Americans lives below the federal poverty line, according to a new government analysis which almost doubles the number of very poor seniors compared to the standard estimate.

At 16%, the proportion of seniors living in poverty is also higher than the proportion of all Americans in poverty. The plight of poor women is particularly striking: 43% of Hispanic women who live alone, and 34% of black women who live alone, live in poverty, according to Supplemental Poverty Measure Research, an alternative calculation from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Supplemental Poverty Measure is a U.S. Census research tool that considers previously overlooked costs like out-of-pocket medical expenses and taxes that can create economic stress for seniors on fixed incomes.

“Too often, the struggles of elder poverty are invisible to policymakers and the public, yet millions are suffering and millions more are living on the edge of a financial crisis,” said Sandra Nathan, PhD, Senior Vice President of Economic Security at the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the leading nonprofit service and advocacy organization for older Americans.

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