The Problem of Poverty among Seniors

‘You don’t want to live anymore.’ California’s seniors living in poverty struggle without retirement savings or an emergency fund, and the government is leaving them to struggle on their own.

The housing crisis is taking a heavy toll. In cities like Los Angeles, more than half the city’s seniors live in poverty. In San Francisco, where the median family income is $74,000, almost two in three elderly people live in poverty. In Portland, the city with the highest median income in the nation, over half the seniors live in poverty.

In all three cases, seniors have little income and little help. In California, more than a third of older Californians have less than $1,000 per month in their savings or retirement funds.

With more than $5 billion in unpaid student loans and no emergency savings, one in three seniors in our country are living in poverty. The national rate of poverty among seniors now hovers around 20 percent.

The problem of poverty among seniors extends far beyond the age of 50. In 2009, one in three seniors in Texas – and one in five in Arizona – lived in poverty. In 2009 in Ohio, one in three seniors lived in poverty, up from one in five in 2002.

The problem of poverty among seniors is not new.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has found a persistent disparity in poverty rates: the poverty rate in 2014 was 15.1 percent for women, but only 7.8 percent for men. The difference is even more pronounced among the elderly: the poverty rate for retirees in 2014 was 16 percent, but only 5 percent for seniors. The disparity is starkest among our elderly poor. Fully one-third of adult women who were living in poverty in 2014 were seniors. Fully one-third of adult men who were living in poverty were seniors.

The problem of poverty among our seniors is a political and a social problem, that has a public and a private dimension.

The public dimension has to do with the fact that our economy and our health depend on seniors.

In fact, about three-quarters of our economic output depends on seniors, and more than half of the health services that treat illnesses are provided to seniors.

In addition to their economic and health services, seniors provide us with a unique and indispensable public good. Over 95 percent of all Americans rely on social services or public health services, including senior services.

The private dimension has to do with how

Leave a Comment