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

August 31, 2015

Policy Brief

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

Over three-quarters of a million (772,000) older Californians are among the “hidden poor"  older adults with incomes above the federal poverty line (FPL) but below a minimally decent standard of living as determined by the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) in 2011. This policy brief uses the most recent Elder Index calculations to document the wide discrepancy that exists between the FPL and the Elder Index. 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. 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.

All data and interactive charts for this publication can be found here:

This analysis was funded with support from The California Wellness Foundation.The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index for California was developed as part of the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW). The Insight Center for Community Economic Development leads the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ program for California, an affiliate of the national Elder Economic Security Initiative™ (Initiative) at Wider Opportunities for Women. The Initiative provides tools, including the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index. For more information, see

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