Research & Analysis by Melissa Koenig
This article provides new estimates of the prevalence of households with two or more unmarried recipients of SSI and analyzes the poverty status of three groups: individual recipients, married couple recipients, and two or more noncouple recipients living in the same household. It finds that outcomes are sensitive to assumptions regarding economies of scale for individual and married couple recipients. SSI program rules concerning the federal income guarantee for married couples versus individuals contributes to higher poverty rates among married couple recipients than among noncouple recipients living in the same household. The rate of poverty is highest among individual beneficiaries living alone. These findings are not sensitive to alternative ways to measure poverty.
The elderly (persons aged 65 or older) are financially better off than ever before. Overall, poverty rates for the elderly have fallen since 1976, median real income has risen, and median income relative to that of the working-age population has been relatively stable. One factor in these improvements is increases in Social Security benefits that generally pay enough to keep independently living elderly persons out of poverty. Most demographic subgroups have shared the reduction in poverty rates. By all measures, however, the economic status of elderly Hispanics has not improved.