December 2, 2011

The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being

22 vs. 11

After narrowing during the 1980s, the gap in economic well-being between Americans under 35 and those over 65 has widened. About one-fifth (22%) of householders under 35 lives in poverty, compared to just 11% of householders over 65.

Over time, the share of households in poverty has veered in opposite directions for households headed by older versus younger adults.

Poverty rates for households headed by adults ages 65 and older dropped dramatically from 1967 to 1980; they have continued to decline, albeit more slowly, to the present day. In 2010, 11% of households headed by adults ages 65 and older were in poverty based on Census Bureau data, compared with 33% in 1967.

On the other hand, poverty rates for households headed by adults younger than 35 began climbing in the 1980s and are notably higher today than they were in 1967. Among households headed by an adult younger than 35, 22% were in poverty in 2010 compared with 12% in 1967.

Among households headed by 35- to 44-year-olds, 9% were in poverty in 1967 and 14% were in poverty in 2010. Among households headed by 45- to 54-year-olds, 8% were in poverty in 1967 and 12% were so in 2010. Among households headed by 55- to 64-year-olds, 14% were in poverty in 1967 and 12% were so in 2010.

While a higher percentage of younger householders than older householders are in poverty today, the opposite was true in 1967 — in that year, 33% of over-65 householders lived in poverty compared to 12% of householders under 35. Read More