Selected Research & Analysis: Socioeconomic Characteristics > Poverty
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This article examines the geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and program-participation characteristics of initial Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) applicants who faced homelessness during 2007–2017. Using Social Security Administration data, the authors chart the distribution of homeless SSI/DI applicants and beneficiaries across county-equivalent areas in the contiguous United States. They also use a text-mining method to identify 162,536 potentially homeless disability-program applicants, in addition to the 647,790 applicants identified using the standard homeless-status indicators in the administrative data. They find that homelessness among disability-program applicants was largely an urban phenomenon, with almost half (42.1 percent) of applicants living in one of 25 urban areas. Relative to their domiciled counterparts, homeless disability-program applicants were far more likely to be male, aged 18–64, and without a high school or general equivalency diploma.
This article examines infant and neonatal mortality rates among children who applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments before reaching 1 year of age during the period 1985–2015. The authors use administrative records from the Social Security Administration to calculate mortality rates across distinct SSI policy regimes within that period. When focusing on children who applied in 2015, the authors examine variations in mortality rates among infant SSI applicants by selected sociodemographic, medical, and SSI program-related characteristics.
Saving for retirement has traditionally been compared to a three-legged stool supported by Social Security benefits, workplace pensions, and household savings. As the prevalence of defined benefit pensions has diminished in recent decades, the importance of household savings has grown. To enable and encourage saving among lower-income Americans, policymakers have established several types of tax incentives. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides an immediate reduction in income tax liability (or a larger refund) for eligible households. Additionally, certain types of retirement saving accounts and defined contribution saving plans lower current tax liability by deferring taxation of the amounts contributed until the funds are withdrawn in retirement. Using data from the Understanding America Study, this article compares the retirement-related financial behavior and preparedness of EITC-eligible and ineligible households and examines whether EITC eligibility affects the use of tax-advantaged retirement saving plans.
Poverty Among the Aged Population: The Role of Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenditures and Annuitized Assets in Supplemental Poverty Measure Estimates
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) does not account for the aged population's ability to draw from asset principal to cover living expenses. In this article, the authors ask two questions: (1) How much can we conservatively expect the aged to withdraw from their assets annually, and (2) To what extent would the inclusion of such assets alter the estimated proportion of the aged in SPM poverty—specifically, the proportion of the aged who are “pushed” into SPM poverty because of their medical out-of-pocket expenditures?
This article examines the 2012 poverty status of eight Social Security adult type of benefit (TOB) groups using both the official poverty measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). For each TOB group, the article compares the SPM estimate with the official poverty measure estimate. In addition, it estimates the effects of various features of the SPM on poverty rates, noting why the SPM estimates differ from official estimates. For each poverty measure, the article also compares poverty estimates across groups.
This article evaluates the Homeless with Schizophrenia Presumptive Disability pilot, which provided Supplemental Security Income application assistance and presumptive disability payments to homeless applicants in selected California communities who alleged schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. The findings show that, relative to the comparison groups, the intervention led to improved application outcomes.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) and Children: How and Why the SPM and Official Poverty Estimates Differ
In 2011, the Census Bureau released its first report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM addresses many criticisms of the official poverty measure, and its intent is to provide an improved statistical picture of poverty. This article examines the extent of poverty identified by the two measures. The authors present a detailed examination of poverty among children (aged 0–17). For a more comprehensive view of poverty and comparison purposes, some findings are presented for two older segments of the U.S. population.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) and Nonaged Adults: How and Why the SPM and Official Poverty Estimates Differ
In 2011, the Census Bureau released its first report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM addresses many criticisms of the official poverty measure, and its intent is to provide an improved statistical picture of poverty. This article examines the extent of poverty identified by the two measures. The authors present a detailed examination of poverty among nonaged adults (those aged 18–64). For a more comprehensive view of poverty and comparison purposes, some findings are presented for younger and older segments of the population.
Improving Access to Benefits for Persons with Disabilities Who Were Experiencing Homelessness: An Evaluation of the Benefits Entitlement Services Team Demonstration Project
This study uses administrative data to evaluate the outcomes of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (DI) applications submitted through the Benefits Entitlement Services Team (B.E.S.T) project, an initiative funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to help individuals experiencing homelessness apply for SSI payments and/or DI benefits. The authors discuss the allowance rates and processing times for B.E.S.T applications, the combination of internal and external methods that supported the B.E.S.T application process, and the characteristics of B.E.S.T applications that increased the likelihood of an allowance.
Social Security's special minimum benefit is declining in relative value, does not provide a full benefit equal to the poverty threshold, and reaches fewer beneficiaries each year. Members of Congress and other key policymakers have proposed several methods for revising the special minimum benefit, either as part of reforming Social Security more broadly or as stand-alone policy options. Most of the new options would index the benefit to wages, helping ensure its sustainability into the future. The options differ in how they define a “year of coverage,” how many years of coverage are required to be eligible for any benefit increase, and how much the full benefit increase should be. Those choices will determine who will receive the benefit increase and how adequate their benefit will be.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) and the Aged: How and Why the SPM and Official Poverty Estimates Differ
In November 2011, the Census Bureau released its first report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure. The SPM addresses many criticisms of the official poverty measure and is intended to provide an improved statistical picture of poverty. This article examines the extent of poverty identified by the two measures. First, we look at how the SPM and official estimates differ for various aged and nonaged groups. Then, we look at why the SPM poverty rate for the aged is much higher than the official rate.
This article looks at Supplemental Security Income (SSI) multirecipients. Using matched administrative and survey data, the author quantifies the prevalence of SSI recipients who live with other recipients (not including an SSI-eligible spouse). The author also conducts family- and household-level analyses to shed light on the social and economic characteristics of SSI multirecipients. The article reveals that SSI multirecipients represent about one-fifth of the SSI population and that their poverty rates vary according to family and household composition characteristics.
Measures of Health and Economic Well-Being Among American Indians and Alaska Natives Aged 62 or Older in 2030
This Research and Statistics Note uses Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) projections to provide an overview of the demographic, health, and economic characteristics of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population aged 62 or older in 2030. MINT projects that the AIAN population will fare worse than the overall aged population in 2030 according to measures of health status, work limitation status, disability status, lifetime earnings, per capita Social Security benefits, per capita income, per capita wealth, and poverty.
This study uses survey and administrative data to analyze the characteristics of working-age Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries who report having work goals or expectations, and the extent to which these beneficiaries become employed and leave the disability rolls during a 4-year period.
Using data from the 2004–2006 National Beneficiary Surveys matched to Social Security administrative data, this study follows a cohort of disability beneficiaries participating in the Ticket to Work program for several years to assess changes in their service use, health status, employment, and income.
A Profile of Social Security Child Beneficiaries and their Families: Sociodemographic and Economic Characteristics
This article presents the sociodemographic and economic characteristics of Social Security child beneficiaries. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation matched with administrative benefit records, we find important differences in the incidence of child benefit receipt and average benefit amount across a number of individual and family-level characteristics. We also examine the demographic and income characteristics of the three beneficiary types: child of deceased worker, child of disabled worker, and child of retired worker.
This article provides policymakers with context for understanding past and future policy discussions regarding Social Security widow benefits. Using data from household surveys, projections from a microsimulation model, and recent research, it examines three types of benefits—those for aged widows, widows caring for children, and disabled widows.
This article is an extension of work reported in an earlier article entitled, "Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income" (Social Security Bulletin 69(1): 45–73). Like the original work, the present study looks at the consequences of obtaining estimates of the prevalence of poverty among persons aged 65 or older by using administrative data to adjust incomes reported in the Current Population Survey. The original article looked at incomes in 2002; the present one covers measures of absolute and relative poverty status of the elderly during the 2003–2005 period. Again, we find that inclusion of administrative data presents challenges, but under the methodology we adopt, such adjustments lower estimated official poverty overall and increase estimated poverty rates for elderly SSI recipients by correcting for the misreporting of SSI, OASDI, and earnings receipt by CPS respondents.
Using Matched Survey and Administrative Data to Estimate Eligibility for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program
This article uses matched survey and administrative data to estimate, as of 2006, the size of the population eligible for the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS), which was designed to provide "extra help" with premiums, deductibles, and copayments for Medicare Part D beneficiaries with low income and limited assets. The authors employ individual-level data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Health and Retirement Study to cover the potentially LIS-eligible noninstitutionalized and institutionalized populations of all ages. The survey data are matched to Social Security administrative data to improve on potentially error-ridden survey measures of income components and program participation.
Provided here are the absolute and relative poverty status of 2002 elderly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. Official poverty estimates are generated from the Current Population Survey's Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS/ASEC). The poverty study presented here differs from previous studies in that it is based on CPS/ASEC income and weight records conditionally adjusted by matching Social Security administrative data. This effort improves the coverage of SSI receipt and the accuracy of SSI estimates. The adjusted CPS/administrative matched data reveal lower 2002 poverty rates among elderly persons (with and without SSI payments) than those generated from the unadjusted CPS/ASEC data.
In a federal government career that lasted more than four decades, Mollie Orshansky worked for the Children's Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, the Social Security Administration, and other agencies. While working at the Social Security Administration during the 1960s, she developed the poverty thresholds that became the federal government's official statistical measure of poverty; her thresholds remain a major feature of the architecture of American social policy and are widely known internationally.
Benefit Adequacy Among Elderly Social Security Retired-Worker Beneficiaries and the SSI Federal Benefit Rate
The federal benefit rate (FBR) of the Supplemental Security Income program provides an inflation-indexed income guarantee for aged and disabled people with low assets. Some consider the FBR as an attractive measure of Social Security benefit adequacy. Others propose the FBR as an administratively simple, well-targeted minimum Social Security benefit. However, these claims have not been empirically tested. Using microdata from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, this article finds that the FBR is an imprecise measure of benefit adequacy; it incorrectly identifies as economically vulnerable many who are not poor, and disregards some who are poor. The reason for this is that the FBR-level benefit threshold of adequacy considers the Social Security benefit in isolation and ignores the family consumption unit. The FBR would provide an administratively simple but poorly targeted foundation for a minimum Social Security benefit. The empirical estimates quantify the substantial tradeoffs between administrative simplicity and target effectiveness.
Poverty-level Annuitization Requirements in Social Security Proposals Incorporating Personal Retirement Accounts
In the current discussions of Social Security reform, voluntary personal retirement accounts have been proposed. Recent research and debate have focused on several aspects of these accounts, including how such accounts would affect aggregate saving, system finances, and benefit levels. Little attention, however, has been paid to policies that would govern the distribution of account balances. This analysis considers such policies with respect to the annuitization of account balances at retirement using the Social Security Administration's Modeling Income in the New Term (MINT) model and a modified version of a recent legislative proposal to evaluate the effects of partial annuitization requirements.
This article estimates effects of future growth in income on the poverty rates of the elderly. If real earnings and other income were to increase steadily at 1 percent per year, poverty among the elderly, 10.5 percent in 1997, would decrease to about 7.2 percent in 2020 and to 4.1 percent in 2047, assuming no Social Security benefit reductions to maintain solvency. The article discusses several other aspects that might affect future poverty rates, including changes in other income components like Supplemental Security Income, earnings, and pensions; changes in longevity and marital patterns; and changes in the distribution of earnings.
Although the Social Security program has substantially reduced poverty among older Americans, 17.3 percent of nonmarried elderly women (widowed, divorced, or never married) are living in poverty today. This paper explores several policy options designed to reduce poverty by enhancing Social Security widow(er)'s benefits, Supplemental Security Income benefits, and Social Security's special minimum benefit. Depending on the option, 40 percent to 58 percent of the additional federal spending would be directed to the poor or near poor.
This article examines poverty among persons aged 65 or older under experimental measures, which are based on a 1995 report released by the National Academy of Sciences. When compared with the official measure, the experimental measure produces higher poverty rates for all groups and narrower differences in poverty rates across groups.
In this paper we focus on the relationship between a woman's economic status earlier in life and her poverty status in old age. Previous research on the determinants of poverty among aged women has documented the socioeconomic and demographic correlates of the poor and has examined the financial impact of adverse late-life events such as widowhood, deterioration of health, and loss of employment. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women, we find that most women who experience these types of adverse events in their later years do not become poor and that a large majority of older NLSMW respondents who were poor in 1991–92 were poor earlier in their adult lives. Whether women are impoverished by adverse late-life events depends on their economic resources just prior to the event. But the financial resources available in old age, in turn, depend very much on their long-term economic status throughout much of their adult lives. This article underscores the fact that for most older women these adverse events do not appear to precipitate poverty spells—at least not within the first couple of years—and directs attention at longer-term circumstances that make some women more vulnerable.
This paper explores the extent to which occupational experience is responsible for the adverse effect of low income and education on mortality. Using Current Population Survey data on education and disability matched to Social Security data on earnings, disability, and mortality, this question is pursued by examining how the estimated effects of income and education are affected once occupational experience is included in the mortality model. The inclusion of various occupational experience variables, as measured in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the National Occupational Hazards Survey, has virtually no effect on the estimated effects of income and education on mortality. These findings suggest that the high mortality of low-income and poorly educated persons is not due to characteristics of their employment but to other aspects associated with poverty.