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Federal Poverty Guideline Underestimates Costs of Living for Older Persons in California

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Abstract:

The federal poverty guideline, used to determine income eligibility for many public programs, covers less than half of the basic costs experienced by adults age 65 and older in the state. This report shows how the new Elder Economic Security Standard index (Elder Index) for California provides an empirically-based measure that more accurately reflects county-level costs faced by older adults in the state.


In 2007, the federal poverty guideline for a single, elderly person was an annual income of $10,210, and for an older couple, $13,690. But according to the report's calculations, broken down by each California county, a basic annual cost of living for a retired older adult, in good health and living in rental housing, averages $21,011, reaching a high of $27,550 in San Mateo County. The supplemental materials include the Elder Index for each California county together with information on the health care, housing, food, transportation, and miscellanous costs that comprise the Elder Index.


The Elder Index is part of a statewide initiative to raise awareness, and to promote policy and programs, that assures income adequacy for all of the state's older adults. The statewide initiative is led by the Insight Center for Community Economic Economic Development, which is part of a national project headed by Wider Opportunities for Women.