Nearly half of elderly will experience poverty says Report

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.

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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.”

 

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  • Are these statistics surprising? Race has long been an economic divide as has education.

    After 56 years, Brown versus the Topeka, Ks. Board of Education, a landmark decision of the Warren Court, only declares the depth of the problem. The question is why and why is the discussion of the problem still taboo in society?

    While great strides have been seen in the last six decades, the level of accomplishment has a long way to go. Gains that are based on preferences are just that; even though they may produce temporary results their long-term impact leads to mediocrity as is obvious from the American experience.

    It is shameful that poverty and race so greatly impact the potential for many in our society. A few rise above them but it is still only a few. Unfortunately prospects of wealth through athletics and celebrity lead far too many down the road of poverty because the fulfillment is but to the few. Until the American value system changes, things of lasting value will be despised by those who need them most and mediocrity prevails.

    • What is wrong with the American value system? Unless we are defining this differently. But if we define it as: “Working hard and smart along with saving and investing is the road to prosperity in this great land.”, then there is nothing wrong with the American value system. This holds true regardless of race. Obviously slavery was an abominable institution that took too long to abolish in this country, as were racist and separatist laws. But that time has passed. There is equal opportunity for most Americans these days. (Equal opportunity, however, does not guarantee equal results.) Blacks may have some unique challenges, but they are far from insurmountable.

      Sure there is a disparity among some races in regards to education, but that is changing and it is the responsibility within certain communities to extol the virtues of thrift, industry and education as means to prosperity and not athletics, the fast buck and stardom. Race is not an economic divide. Culture is. Look at the statistics: African born and West Indians as a whole do fairly well in the U.S. This is despite being Black immigrants who may or may not know the language and culture of the U.S. They come from lands with no handouts, freebies, affirmative action, or in short..no pandering due to race. If the shame of rising above poverty is to take place within the Black or any community, it is the responsibility of that community.

      It is a fairly level playing field, but everyone’s got to bring their OWN ball and get IN the game. If you don’t play…you can’t win.

      That being said, many Black seniors have not benefited fully from our improved society (in regards to race). We should, however, hope that the race disparity as regards to poverty will diminish with the subsequent generations.

      • James,

        The American experience is not the same for all. It is interesting we see things so alike yet express and view them so differently. I believe that with more than two centuries of the American experience behind us, the impact of our value system should be well developed. Unfortunately it is about as fragmented as our society is diverse.

        As to ancestry, I am the product of but three generations of the California experience and almost four centuries of European development of this country. Since the days of the Gold Rush, 2010 is the first year that the population of California consists more of those born in this state than those who have moved into it. It will be interesting to see what the value system of the next few generations of “native born” Californians will be. For the first time in over one and one-half centuries, we will begin to see what the fruit of being born and reared in California actually consists of.

        It used to be very laughable to hear those not born in this state complaining about California drivers since the number of drivers born in this state were so small in comparison to those drivers who were born in other places. The California value system is much more diverse than the value system of almost any other state in the Union.

        Even though we are the third largest state in land area, we are by far the most populous. The growth in population has been staggering; it is now more than three times the number of what it was when I was born when it was about equal to that of the population of Pennsylvania at that time. Areas that were once considered desert communities are counted in Los Angeles-Santa Ana-Riverside MSA statistics.

        With but two short freeways in all of LA County (when I was very young) crossing in downtown LA, the increased maze of highways and freeways is staggering. One of those freeways is now part of the system which extends from Baja California to Sarah Palin’s front porch. The choices of transportation by which my grandfathers came here were either horse drawn or train. Both came here a little over a century ago.

        Hopefully hard work will be as it has been, a major factor in the California value system. Many have risen above their initial status in the state, like Illinois born Ronald Reagan, to greatness and others to great disgrace. As the saying goes, time will tell.

  • Are these statistics surprising? Race has long been an economic divide as has education.

    After 56 years, Brown versus the Topeka, Ks. Board of Education, a landmark decision of the Warren Court, only declares the depth of the problem. The question is why and why is the discussion of the problem still taboo in society?

    While great strides have been seen in the last six decades, the level of accomplishment has a long way to go. Gains that are based on preferences are just that; even though they may produce temporary results their long-term impact leads to mediocrity as is obvious from the American experience.

    It is shameful that poverty and race so greatly impact the potential for many in our society. A few rise above them but it is still only a few. Unfortunately prospects of wealth through athletics and celebrity lead far too many down the road of poverty because the fulfillment is but to the few. Until the American value system changes, things of lasting value will be despised by those who need them most and mediocrity prevails.

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