CHA News Article

Study Finds More Than 750,000 Older Californians ‘Unofficially’ Poor

According to a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, more than one in five adults over 65 in California — more than three-quarters of a million people — are among the “hidden poor” who live in the gap between the federal poverty level and the Elder Index poverty measure. The Elder Index is considered a more accurate cost estimate of what is required for a decent standard of living. The national federal poverty level (FPL) guidelines say a single elderly adult living alone should be able to live on $10,890 per year, while the Elder Index estimates that same person in California, on average, requires $23,364. According to the study, about 772,000 elderly adults in California who are heads of households belong to the group of hidden poor, which is more than double the number of elderly (342,000) who meet official federal poverty level guidelines. Unlike the “official” poor, the hidden poor often do not qualify for public assistance.

This study finds that the FPL significantly underestimates the number of economically insecure older adults who are unable to make ends meet. Yet, because many public assistance programs are aligned with the FPL, potentially hundreds of thousands of economically insecure older Californians are denied aid. The highest rates of the hidden poor among older adults are found among renters, Latinos, women, those who are raising grandchildren, and people in the oldest age groups. According to the study, raising the income and asset eligibility requirement thresholds for social support programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), housing, health care and food assistance would help California’s older hidden poor make ends meet.

Read the study: The Hidden Poor: Over Three-Quarters of a Million Older Californians Overlooked by Official Poverty Line.