Income, Poverty, and Material Hardship Among Older Americans.

TitleIncome, Poverty, and Material Hardship Among Older Americans.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsLevy, HG
Date Published2015 Nov
ISSN Number2377-8253

Using data from the 2008 and 2010 waves of the Health and Retirement Study to analyze the determinants of material hardship among individuals ages sixty-five and older, I look at five self-reported hardships: food insecurity, skipped meals, medication cutbacks, difficulty paying bills, and dissatisfaction with one's financial situation. One-fifth of the elderly report one or more of these hardships. Although hardship is more likely for those with low incomes, most older Americans experiencing hardship are not poor. I analyze whether alternative measures of resources do a better job of predicting hardship than does income relative to the federal poverty threshold. I find that spending relative to the poverty threshold does a worse job predicting hardship than does income relative to poverty. Subtracting out-of-pocket medical spending from income yields a measure that is an even better predictor of hardship. In multivariate models, I find that self-reported health, activity limitations, and disability are significant predictors of hardship. Having reliable children (as assessed by the respondent) or an able-bodied spouse reduces the likelihood of hardship. Poor health increases hardship through three channels: by lowering income, by increasing out-of-pocket medical spending, and through its direct effect on hardship. The first two of these-lower income and higher medical spending-are much less quantitatively important than the third; in a nutshell, poor health makes it harder to get by with less.

User Guide Notes

Endnote Keywords

poverty/material hardship/food insecurity/older Americans/INCOME/Out of pocket costs

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalRSF
Citation Key8222
PubMed ID27857982
PubMed Central IDPMC5110250
Grant ListK01 AG034232 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
P2C HD041028 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
U01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States