A new study finds that nearly half of all Americans between the ages of 60 and 90 will encounter at least one year of poverty or near poverty, according to Mark Rank, PhD, the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Work at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Of course, this risk is not evenly distributed across the population,” Rank says. “One of the most drastic economic divides is race.”
Rank found that although 32.7 percent of white older Americans will experience at least one year below the official poverty line, the corresponding percentage for black older Americans was double that at 64.6 percent.
In addition, for unmarried older Americans, the percentage experiencing poverty was 51.2 percent compared with 24.9 percent for married older Americans. Likewise, for those with fewer than 12 years of education, the percentage experiencing poverty was 48.4 percent compared with 20.5 percent for those with 12 or more years of education.
The study also found that 58 percent of those between the ages of 60 and 84 will at some point fail to have enough liquid assets to allow them to weather an unanticipated expense or downturn in income. The fact that Americans are living longer, the lack of adequate savings for retirement, and the influx of Americans entering their senior years all contribute to the problem.
“Practitioners working with the elderly and their families should be aware of the life course risk for poverty during the senior years in order to address the overall well-being of their elderly clients,” Rank says. “Given the current demographic and economic trends in America, this threat is quite likely to remain in the years ahead.”