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Wednesday, 02 September 2015 15:49

“The Hidden Poor”: More than One Million Elderly Californians in Poverty

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In today’s blog, Dr. Michael Omidi discusses a recent study that finds more than one million elderly Californians are living in poverty.

“The hidden poor” is a term that is used to describe individuals who have incomes above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, but do not earn enough income to make ends meet. Statistically, they may not meet the calculable criteria to be considered below the poverty line, but they are still lacking the resources to escape from under the weight of poverty.

This is a sad and troubling fact, as it often masks the true severity of poverty as a whole. While there are currently more than 300,000 elderly Californians who are officially classified as poor, according to a recent study performed by UCLA, that number may be more than 1 million when “the hidden poor” are taken into account.

The study was performed by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, and it returned some startling findings. According to the National Poverty Guidelines, the poverty line for a single elderly adult living alone is $10,890 a year. However in California, ULCA’s “elder index” puts that number at $23,364.

While the Census Bureau does utilize a “supplemental measure” for determining cost of living, the study suggests that it is not entirely accurate. Officially, California’s poverty rate is close to the national average, but the study proposes that factoring in the “hidden poor” puts California’s poverty rate at 23.4 percent, making it the nation’s highest.

The calculations performed by UCLA take the cost of living into account, and housing in particular. In areas like San Francisco, where residents traditionally have higher incomes but extremely high housing costs, the rates of elder poverty are considerably higher.

Those individuals over the age of 65 who fall into the “hidden poor” category in California tend to be black and Latino. Their greatest concentrations tend to be in smaller, rural counties that have overall lower incomes. The largest concentration is in Imperial County, where 40 percent of the elderly are classified as “hidden poor.”

The study also found that large proportions of the “hidden poor” population include grandparents who are raising grandchildren, elderly parents with adult children who still live at home, and single or widowed elders.

Poverty is a severe and widespread affliction, but studies such as this show us the true depth of the issue. Reformation of our nation’s standards and classifications for poverty, including factors such as accounting for the “hidden poor” is necessary.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Michael Omidi MD

Dr. Michael Omidi MD is an advocate for the health and wellbeing of people and animals, and is the co-founder of No More Poverty

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