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Trends in poverty among older people

PovertyHow has it changed?

This graph compares the before housing poverty rates for single older people after housing costs are taken into account, based on the 50% median income poverty line. It shows that until 2015, single people aged 65+ had significantly higher poverty rates than the wider community, whilst poverty rates for couples aged 65+ have been consistently lower. Poverty rates for older people in income support households (mainly Age Pension recipients) were slightly higher than rates for older single and partnered people generally, and followed similar lines.

One of the noticeable features of this graph is the different trend in poverty among older single people and couples between 2005-06 and 2009-10. The poverty rate for older couples was relatively stable, declining from 9.2% in 2005-06 to 8.4% in 2009-10, while poverty rose for single older people from 27% in 2005-06 to 45% in 2008-09, then fell to 18% in 2009-10 – 9 percentage points below the 2005 level. The poverty rate among single older people in income support households also fell overall by 9 percentage points, from 27% in 2005-06 to 18% in 2009-10. This increase in poverty among single older people from 2005-06 to 2007-08 was consistent with strong growth in median household incomes and in their housing costs during that period. The sharper reduction in poverty among older single people from 2007-08 to 2009-10 was consistent with a relatively large increase in the rate of the single pension in 2009, which was not extended to couples.

Another feature of note in this graph is the relative high poverty rate among the minority of older people who rent their housing, which is evident once housing costs are taken into account. The graph shows that poverty rates among older people in public housing rose from 49% in 1999-00 to 80% in 2007-08, then declined to 33% in 2015-16. This reflects the disadvantaged profile of public tenants despite the lower rents for public housing. Poverty rates among private tenants aged 65 and more rose from 53% in 1999-00 to 59% in 2007-08, then fell to 33% in 2015-16. This reflects the higher housing costs for older private tenants compared with older home-owners.

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