During the last hundred years older people in America have enjoyed a dramatic improvement in their economic security. This progress represents a dramatic reversal from the endemic poverty that accompanied aging in the first half of the last century.
Now it appears that this progress may be in danger. A new study highlights the increasingly precarious financial position of older people in America.
MSNBC summarizes the study here
NEW YORK — Nearly half of elderly Americans will face a future with at least one year below or close to the poverty line, according to a new study that showed a huge racial divide in prospects for the elderly.
Mark R. Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said the results of his research contradict popular beliefs about the economic stability of America’s elderly population.
“We have an image of the elderly as doing pretty well,” he said, adding that data spanning 35 years does not support that assumption.
Elderly black Americans are almost twice as likely as whites to sink to the poverty level, according to the study. It estimates 64.6 percent of black Americans and 32.7 whites will face poverty.
“There are historical differences between whites and African-Americans. In all age groups, African-Americans are more likely at lower paying jobs and have much less assets,” Rank explained.
As with income poverty, the study which was published in “Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services,” showed a sharp racial divide in poverty.
While 58 percent of those between 60 and 84 will at some point fail to have enough liquid assets to allow them to get through unanticipated expenses or declining income, African-Americans were found to be 2.4 times more likely to experience asset poverty.
This site has been a staunch defender of Social Security and Medicare. The attempt to “privatize” support for older people was always misguided and, it can be argued, continues to be motivated by the selfish interests of Wall Street. The struggle over the meaning of old age and the nature of our shared obligation to older people will form the center of an intense conflict.
A failure to properly defend Social Security would have consequences that would make the suffering identified in the study above seem like a stroll in a park on a sunny summer afternoon.