Back in 2011 the Census Bureau started releasing an alternative measure of income known as the supplemental poverty measure. It takes into account things like government in-kind benefits and necessary out-of-pocket medical costs. The Kaiser Family Foundation has done a new analysis based on this data and found poverty among seniors is significantly worse than under official estimates. From KFF:

  • Nationally, nearly half of all seniors (48%) live with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty threshold under the supplemental measure, compared to 34 percent under the official measure.3  The share of seniors with incomes below 200 percent of poverty is higher under the supplemental measure in every state than under the official measure.4
  • Under the supplemental measure, at least two-fifths of seniors (40%) have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 48 states and in DC; using the official measure, this is the case in only six states.
  • At least half of seniors have incomes below 200 percent of poverty in 10 states and DC based on the supplemental measure: DC (59%); California (56%); Hawaii (55%); Georgia (54%); Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee (52%); Florida and Mississippi (51%); and Arizona (50%).

Of course in light of this new data many elected officials in Washington, including President Obama, call for making the problem significantly worse by cutting Social Security benefits using the Chained-CPI.

It should be noted that even without cutting government programs this problem will likely get much worse in the future. The pension system has been steadily eroding for years, which should leave many Americans with insufficient income when they try to retire.

Photo by squirlaraptor released under Creative Commons License