U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Poverty and Household Composition

In 2008, 41.7 percent of women aged 65 years and older who did not reside in an institution were married and living with a spouse, while another 39.5 percent lived alone. Nearly 9 percent of older women were heads of their household, with no spouse present, meaning that they had children or other family members, but no spouse, living with them in a housing unit that they own or rent. Research has suggested that older adults who live alone are more likely to live in poverty, which has numerous implications including increased risk of food insecurity, decreased access to health care facilities due to lack of transportation, and inability to pay utility bills.1

Nearly 12 percent of women aged 65 years and older lived in poverty in 2008, while 29.9 percent had household incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty. Only one-quarter of older women had incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty. Among women aged 65 and older, income decreases as age increases. For instance, women aged 75 years and older were most likely to have incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty and less than 100 percent of poverty (36.1 and 13.3 percent, respectively). In comparison, 9.5 percent of women aged 65–69 years lived in poverty, and 21.6 percent had incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty. Women aged 75 and older were also least likely to have incomes of 400 percent or more of poverty (18.4 percent), compared to 26.2 percent of women aged 70–74 years and 36.6 percent of women aged 65–69 years.

 

1 Cawthorne, A. Elderly Poverty: The Challenge Before Us. Center for American Progress. July 30, 2008 [online]. www.americanprogress.org/issues/domestic/poverty, accessed 12/17/09.

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