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Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+
Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+ in United States
United States

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Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+ by State

Ratio of the poverty rate of the racial/ethnic group with the highest rate (varies by state) to the non-Hispanic white rate among adults ages 65 and older

Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+ Trends

Ratio of the poverty rate of the racial/ethnic group with the highest rate (varies by state) to the non-Hispanic white rate among adults ages 65 and older

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Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+

About Poverty Racial Disparity - Ages 65+

US Value: 2.3

Top State(s): Maine: 1.2

Bottom State(s): Wyoming: 5.2

Definition: Ratio of the poverty rate of the racial/ethnic group with the highest rate (varies by state) to the non-Hispanic white rate among adults ages 65 and older

Data Source and Years: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2021

Suggested Citation: America's Health Rankings analysis of U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, United Health Foundation,, accessed 2023.

In 2020, racial and ethnic minorities made up the majority of older adults in poverty, despite accounting for 24% of all older adults in the United States. The poverty rate among American Indian/Alaska Native, Black and Hispanic older adults is more than double that of white older adults.

Poverty is associated with poor health outcomes. It influences health-related behaviors, and is linked to increased risk of mortality and chronic disease. Those with incomes below the federal poverty level may struggle to consistently meet basic needs such as stable housing, food and health care. Poverty may result from inequitable access to resources and opportunities. 

Racial disparities in poverty are caused by cumulative disadvantages that occur over generations. The negative effects of interpersonal and structural racism on social determinants of health interact with one another, deepening inequities and placing communities of color at higher risk for poor health outcomes.

Seniors of color are disproportionately affected by poverty: 

  • Black older adults make up 9% of the senior population and 17.2% live in poverty.
  • Hispanic older adults make up 9% of the senior population and 16.6% live in poverty. 
  • Asian older adults make up 5% of the senior population and 11.5% live in poverty.

For comparison, white older adults make up 76% of the senior population and 6.8% live in poverty.

Many federal, state and local government programs, as well as community interventions, exist to support and help reduce the number of older adults living in poverty. In order to address the racial gap in poverty among older adults, however, lifelong approaches are needed to end cycles of generational poverty. Some ways to do this include:

  • Providing opportunities for Black and Hispanic people to leave segregated neighborhoods and move to cities where there are more opportunities for higher paying jobs with retirement plans and childcare benefits.
  • Establishing affordable housing in safe neighborhoods with access to jobs and education. 
  • Providing academic and social support to at-risk youth to reduce high school dropout rates. Those who graduate high school are 4 times less likely to struggle economically in older adulthood.

Adler, Nancy E., Thomas Boyce, Margaret A. Chesney, Sheldon Cohen, Susan Folkman, Robert L. Kahn, and S. Leonard Syme. 1994. “Socioeconomic Status and Health: The Challenge of the Gradient.” American Psychologist 49 (1): 15–24.

Administration on Aging. 2022. “2021 Profile of Older Americans.” Administration for Community Living.

Braveman, Paula A., Catherine Cubbin, Susan Egerter, David R. Williams, and Elsie Pamuk. 2010. “Socioeconomic Disparities in Health in the United States: What the Patterns Tell Us.” American Journal of Public Health 100 (S1): S186–96.

Desmond, Matthew. 2015. “Unaffordable America: Poverty, Housing, and Eviction.” Fast Focus: Institute for Research on Poverty, no. 22–2015 (March): 1–6.

Fulwood III, Sam. 2016. “The United States’ History of Segregated Housing Continues to Limit Affordable Housing.” Center for American Progress.

Hahn, Robert A., John A. Knopf, Sandra Jo Wilson, Benedict I. Truman, Bobby Milstein, Robert L. Johnson, Jonathan E. Fielding, et al. 2015. “Programs to Increase High School Completion: A Community Guide Systematic Health Equity Review.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 48 (5): 599–608.

Lansford, Jennifer E., Kenneth A. Dodge, Gregory S. Pettit, and John E. Bates. 2016. “A Public Health Perspective on School Dropout and Adult Outcomes: A Prospective Study of Risk and Protective Factors From Age 5 to 27 Years.” Journal of Adolescent Health 58 (6): 652–58.

Lazar, Malerie, and Lisa Davenport. 2018. “Barriers to Health Care Access for Low Income Families: A Review of Literature.” Journal of Community Health Nursing 35 (1): 28–37.

Lin, Ann Chih, and David R. Harris. 2009. “The Colors of Poverty: Why Racial & Ethnic Disparities Persist.” National Poverty Center Policy Brief #16, January, 1–4.

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