A new report on the senior population found a majority of elderly women, blacks and Latinos are precariously close to poverty, according to the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute report released Thursday.
The report comes as lawmakers are considering making changes to Social Security and Medicare. The proposed changes, the report's authors warn, would make 41 million American seniors economically vulnerable, defined as having an income less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold.
Nearly half of the elderly population is just one economic mishap away from falling into poverty, according to the study.
But elderly women, ages 65 and older, are more likely to be vulnerable to economic calamities. Nearly 53% of elderly women are "economically vulnerable," compared to 42% of men of the same age range.
"After working hard their entire lives, millions of our elderly are struggling to pay for basic needs like food, medicine and housing, even with Social Security and Medicare," said the report's co-author Elise Gould. "As such, policymakers should consider the dire consequences proposals to restructure these programs would have on our parents and grandparents."
The researchers relied on the U.S. Census Bureau's supplemental poverty measure. Formed in 2009, the metric is an experimental poverty measure that defines income thresholds and resources different from the official poverty metric, according to the Census Bureau.
Among other findings:
-- Nearly 64% of elderly blacks are defined as economically vulnerable.
-- The rate for elderly Latinos is six percentage points higher at 70%.
-- In comparison, 44% of elderly whites are considered economically vulnerable.
-- The older elderly -- people age 80 and older -- have a far higher rate of economic vulnerability: 58% compared to those between age 65 and 79, 44%.
Researchers said most elderly Americans subsist on meager retirements and live on a fixed income.
"We can dispel the myth that most seniors are 'greedy geezers' with lavish retirements," said co-author David Cooper. "Almost half are either in poverty or close to it."