Older Women and Poverty: Takeaways from the 2015 Census Data

Final_nwlc_SocialSecurityPov2016While the 2015 Census Bureau Data showed that many American families are experiencing real economic gains, the data also paint a picture of women’s economic lives that continues to be of concern.

  • Women overall make just 80 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. For older women, the wage gap is even wider: working women aged 65 and older only make 73 cents for every dollar earned by men of the same age. Women of color experience even greater wage gaps overall, and when they are older.
  • The wage gap adds up over time – and the cumulative impact is shocking.  A woman would have to work more than 50 years to earn what a man earns in 40 to make up the $418,800 she loses over her lifetime from the wage gap.
  • A lifetime of lower earnings and more time spent out of the workforce (often for caregiving responsibilities) has a striking impact on women’s economic security as they grow older.  Because Social Security benefits are based on lifetime earnings, the average Social Security retirement benefit for women 65 and older is less than that received by men of the same age (about $14,411 per year, compared to $18,258 for men of the same age). And because they have fewer earnings and savings – and tend to live longer – women rely more on their Social Security benefits than men do.

The bottom line is that 10.3 percent of older women were poor in 2015 (compared to 7.0 percent of older men), with nearly 1 in 5 African American women, about 1 in 5 Hispanic women, and nearly 1 in 4 Native American women aged 65 or over living in poverty in 2015. And of the 1.56 million older women living alone, more than 1 in 6 (16.8 percent) was poor.  We can – and should – do better by and for our nation’s women.