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More than Half of Poor Americans Are Very Young or Very Old

March 29, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More than half of Americans living in poverty are the very young or the very old, the Census Bureau said Wednesday.

Some 40 percent of the total 32.5 million poor Americans were under 18, while those 65 or over constituted 10.7 percent of impoverished people, the bureau reported.

The report, ″Poverty in the United States: 1987,″ expanded on a study of income and poverty issued last August. The earlier analysis found nearly one- third of all black Americans living in poverty.

″The poverty rate for children continues, as it has since 1975, to be higher than that for other age groups,″ the new report said.

Some 20.6 percent of the 63.2 million Americans under age 18 were listed as living in poverty compared with 13.5 percent of all Americans.

This is a result of a number of factors, including the increase of single- parent households and problems in collecting child-support from the absent parent, said Ann Kittlaus of the Food Research and Action Council, a private, anti-poverty group.

Reductions in the federal safety net under then-President Reagan resulted in fewer people receiving food stamps while more went into poverty, she said, while the minimum wage held steady.

The Census Bureau said the poverty rate was 12.2 percent for people aged 65 and over and only 10.8 percent for the prime working ages of 18-to-64.

″Historically the poverty rate for persons 65 years and over has been higher than for the total population, but this relationship reversed in 1983,″ the bureau’s report said.

Tying Social Security benefits to inflation has helped this group and other federal programs also have focused to a large extent on poverty among the elderly, private analysts have reported.

Poverty is defined on a sliding scale depending on the size of a family. For 1987 the threshold was $11,611 for a non-farm family of four, up from $11,203 a year earlier.

According to the reports, 32.5 million Americans lived below the poverty threshhold in 1987, including 13 million under age 18, 16 million aged 18 to 64 and 3.5 million who are 65 or older.

While the overall 1987 rates, and those for ethnic groups, were detailed in the report issued last August, the new study includes historical comparisons.

Here is a rundown of the poverty rates for various age groups in recent years. Young is under 18, Mid is 18 to 64 and Older is 65 and over. NA means not available. Year Young Mid Older 1965 21.0 NA NA 1966 17.6 10.5 28.5 1967 16.6 10.0 29.5 1968 15.6 9.0 25.0 1969 14.0 8.7 25.3 1970 15.1 9.0 24.6 1971 15.3 9.3 21.6 1972 15.1 8.8 18.6 1973 14.4 8.3 16.3 1974 15.4 8.3 14.6 1975 17.1 9.2 15.3 1976 16.0 9.0 15.0 1977 16.2 8.8 14.1 1978 15.9 8.7 14.0 1979 16.4 8.9 15.2 1980 18.3 10.1 15.7 1981 20.0 11.1 15.3 1982 21.9 12.0 14.6 1983 22.3 12.4 13.8 1984 21.5 11.7 12.4 1985 20.7 11.3 12.6 1986 20.5 10.8 12.4 1987 20.6 10.8 12.2

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