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More Than One in 10 Older Adults Are Poor

old man poverty

More than 10 million Americans age 50 and older  - one in 10 - lived in poverty last year, about the same as in 2010, according t0 new Census data released Wednesday.

Older adults fared slightly better than working-age people. Here's how those figures broke down: About 6.5 million people 50 to 64, or 11 percent, remained in poverty last year. Among people 65 and older, 3.6 million were officially considered poor, a rate of about 9 percent.

Hiring was weak and unemployment remained high last year, likely contributing to the struggle millions of people faced to make ends meet.

The Census report on income, poverty and health insurance is the most detailed look that the bureau takes at Americans' household income. It showed that the poverty rate  (the government set the threshold at $23,021 for a family of four in 2011) was lower for older adults than for younger age groups.

All told, 46.2 million people, or 15 percent, of Americans were impoverished in 2011. Of those, 22 percent were children under age 18.

Women continued to earn about 77 percent of the pay that men made, the report showed. The median earnings of women who worked full time last year was $37,118, while men earned $48,202.

But  both had to make do with less. Real median earnings of men and women declined by 2.5 percent between 2010 and 2011. It was 8.1 percent lower than in 2007, when the recession began.

 Though job opportunities were anything but plentiful, men were still luckier at finding full-time work than women. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of men working full time, year-round, increased by 1.7 million; the number of working women increased by 0.5 million.

As the population ages, more Americans became eligible for Medicare - those on the rolls rose to 15.2 percent last year from 14.6 percent in 2010.

Among other highlights:

  • The number of people with health insurance increased to 260.2 million in 2011 from 256.6 million in 2010, apparently the result, at least in part, of new health care reforms.
  • About 64 percent were covered by private health insurance in 2011, the first time in the last 10 years that the rate of coverage hadn't declined.
  • About 55 percent of workers were covered by employer-based health insurance last year, about the same as in 2010.

Photo credit: Mubina H via

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