Our Biggest Poverty Problem Is Not the Elderly

New poverty figures for 2017 are out today along with the new income figures, and there are no surprises: the poverty rate decreased 0.4 percentage points, just as you’d expect during an economic expansion. However, it’s worth showing the poverty rate by age, since it seems to be an endless source of misinformation:

Yes, that orange line is correct: ever since 2000, the elderly have had the lowest poverty rate in the nation. That includes the entire period of the Great Recession, and every year since.

Our biggest poverty problem is not among senior citizens. Our biggest poverty problem is, first, among children, and second, among working-age adults.¹ That’s where our attention should be most heavily focused.

¹The Supplemental Poverty Measure tells a somewhat different story, but even the SPM says that poverty is more widespread among children than among the elderly.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend