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Administration on Aging (AoA)

A Profile of Older Americans: 2012


Over 3.6 million elderly persons (8.7%) were below the poverty level in 2011. This poverty rate is not statistically different from the poverty rate in 2010 (8.9%). Another 2.4 million or 5.8% of the elderly were classified as "near-poor" (income between the poverty level and 125% of this level).

Just over 1.6 million older Whites (not Hispanic) (6.7%) were poor in 2011, compared to 17.3% of elderly African-Americans, 11.7% of Asians, and 18.7% of elderly Hispanics. Higher than average poverty rates were found in 2011 for older persons who lived inside principal cities (11.7%) and in the South (10.1%).

Older women had a higher poverty rate (10.7%) than older men (6.2%) in 2011. Older persons living alone were much more likely to be poor (16.5%) than were older persons living with families (5%). The highest poverty rates were experienced among older Hispanic women (38.8%) who lived alone and also by older Black women (32.2%) who lived alone.

In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM methodology shows a significantly higher number of older persons below poverty than is shown by the official poverty measure. For persons 65 and older this poverty measure shows a poverty level of 15.1% in 2011 (more than 6 percentage points higher than the official rate of 8.7%). Unlike the official poverty rate, the SPM takes into account regional variations in the cost of housing etc. and, even more significantly, the impact of both non-cash benefits received (e.g., SNAP/food stamps, low income tax credits, WIC, etc.) and non-discretionary expenditures including medical out-of-pocket (MOOP) expenses. For persons 65 and over, MOOP was the major source of the significant differences between these measures. Bear in mind that the SPM does not replace the official poverty measure.

(Based on online data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1) Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement;2) "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011," P60 243, issued September, 2012; and 3) “The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure,” P60-244, issued November 2012.)

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Last Modified: 8/25/2014