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Older Adults Need Twice the Federal Poverty Level to Make Ends Meet in California

September 1, 2010

Policy Brief

Authors: Steven P. Wallace, PhD, D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, PhD, MPH, Susan E. Smith

This policy brief uses 2009 data to calculate the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), a measure of the basic cost of living for seniors in all 58 California counties. It shows that both singles and couples age 65 or older who rent need more than twice the amount established by the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) Guideline to meet basic living expenses. The gap is greater for elders who own their home and are paying a mortgage than for renters. The gap between basic expenses and the FPL is smaller for owners without a mortgage, but still exists.

Housing and health care are the primary drivers of the high costs. This policy brief documents that the Elder Index provides a better measure of income adequacy than the Federal Poverty Level guideline (FPL) for older adults because it accounts for those costs at the county level. It also details the growing number of public and nonprofit organizations using the Elder Index for planning and programs that improve the health and income security of California's rapidly aging population.

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