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Poverty by Age and Sex: An Examination of the Distribution in Poverty Between 1966 and 2014

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Researchers, analysts and policymakers have long noted that women are more likely to fall below the poverty line than men. However, the poverty differential between men and women is not consistent throughout life.

In this project, Poverty by Age and Sex: An Examination of the Distribution in Poverty Between 1966 and 2014, we use data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC) and the American Community Survey (ACS) to examine the gender differences in poverty rates for all ages and to explore how those differences have changed over time.

One way to measure the difference in poverty rates between men and women is to calculate a female/male poverty ratio. If the poverty rates for men and women are equal, the ratio will have a value of one. If the ratio is greater than one, the poverty rate for women is higher than the poverty rate for men. For example, in 2014 the poverty rate for women 95 years of age and older was 14.25 percent while the poverty rate for men in this age category was 10.46 percent. The female/male poverty ratio, therefore, was 14.25 divided by 10.46 or 1.36 (see Figure 1).

Results from the 2014 ACS show that for the majority of age categories, females had higher poverty rates than males. For example, at each single year of age from 16 to 94 women experienced higher levels of impoverishment than their male counterparts (see Figure 1).

Data from the CPS ASEC show that individuals aged 75 and over not only had the largest differences in poverty rates between men and women in 2014, but the differential for this group was up from 1966. At the same time, the gap for individuals aged 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 was down from 1966 (see Figure 2).

In general, the results of this project showed that women continue to face a disproportionately high risk of living in poverty compared with men. In particular, women age 75 and older and age 25 to 34 remain considerably worse off than their male counterparts.

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