Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income, 2002-2005

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Abstract: The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is the nation’s safety net for the aged, blind, and disabled. SSI receipt is often not reported by individuals interviewed in the Current Population Survey (CPS), the statistical base for the Census Bureau’s annual estimates of poverty rates. In an earlier article, we explored the effect on estimated poverty rates in 2002 of adjusting CPS income reports using administrative data on earnings and benefits from the SSI and Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance programs. We assessed poverty using both the official standard and a “relative” standard based on half of median pretax, posttransfer income. This article extends that work through 2005. We find that including administrative data presents challenges, but under the methodology we adopt, such adjustments lower estimated official poverty overall and increase estimated poverty rates for elderly SSI recipients. Relative poverty rates are much higher than official poverty rates. By any of the applied standards and procedures for income adjustment, poverty changed little over the 2002–2005 interval.

Suggested citation: Wiseman, Michael, and Nicholas, Joyce. “Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income, 2002-2005.” Social Security Bulletin. Vol. 70, No. 2, 2010, 1-29.