Examining Racial-Ethnic and Gender Disparities in Poverty Among the Elderly Using a Longitudinal Approach
Methods: This research uses data from the Rand version of the Health and Retirement Study to estimate life tables that describe the risk of falling into poverty upon retirement using a two-step process. The study first draws individuals 65 years and over from Waves 6 (2002), 7 (2004), 8 (2006), 9 (2008), and 10 (2010) and follows their initial transition to retirement. The study then tracks the income trajectories of those who make this transition to investigate whether and to what extent the risk of falling into poverty varies across time and across different racial-ethnic and gender groups.
Results: Life table analysis reveals a cumulative, sample poverty rate of 22.2% among elderly individuals over the ten-year observation window, and also finds that the risk of poverty is higher among Hispanic elderly individuals than for Black elderly individuals. The risk of poverty is especially high among Hispanic females as 53.29% fall into poverty over a ten-year span. The findings also reveal that the risk of falling into poverty generally increases over time with the exception of Black males and Hispanic males.
Conclusions and Implications: While poverty among elderly individuals appears to have diminished over the past decade, the results of this longitudinal study indicate that the true extent of poverty especially among particular racial-ethnic and gender groups is understated. Hence, policy advocates should exercise caution in interpreting the annual poverty estimates to gauge any level of progress in combating poverty.