198337 Federal Poverty Line Excludes Many Income Insecure Elders of Color from Benefits

Wednesday, November 11, 2009: 1:00 PM

Susan Smith, MPA , Insight Center for Community Economic Development, Oakland, CA
Steven P. Wallace, PhD , School of Public Health, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, MPH , UCLA School of Public Health & UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, Los Angeles, CA
L. Cricel Molina, MPH , UCLA Center for Health Policy Research & School of Public Health, University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is an outdated measure based on 1950s consumption patterns. It is used in many public programs' eligibility guidelines and is uniform nationally. To correct the flaws of the FPL, the Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) was developed. It takes the actual costs of housing, food, health care, transportation, and other expenses at the county level to calculate the minimum required for a dignified standard of living. In California, housing costs and other costs are significantly above the national average, making the minimum costs for older adults about twice the FPL on average. When the county-specific costs using the Elder Index are compared to elders' incomes in California, we find that elders of color living alone are twice as likely to be economically insecure as older non-Latino whites. This disparity persists when controlling for age, housing type (rental versus owner), and gender. Only one-third of those economically insecure according to the Elder Index in each race/ethnic group fell under the FPL, meaning that as many as two-thirds of older Californians who are struggling to make ends meet are not considered “needy” using the FPL. With the high rates of economically insecure elders of color in the state, they are disproportionately disqualified from public programs by the use of the outdated FPL measure. The implications for specific health policies are described, along with efforts at the state level to promote the use of the Elder Index in planning and policy.

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the origin of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) in the 1950s consumption patterns and food guidelines 2) List several federal and state programs that use the FPL in their eligibility guidelines 3) Explain how the FPL disproportionately excludes elders of color who are economically insecure from public benefits

Keywords: Minorities, Poverty

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been involved in the conceptualization, analysis, and writing of this abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.