Twice as many elderly in poverty: New formula, new policy hope

Poverty among the elderly is now nearly twice the normal rate. Traditionally, 10 percent of Americans over age 65 live below the poverty line, but the National Academy of Science has developed a new formula it hopes will replace the current nor, which has been in use for around 50 years -- and the results are astounding. This emerging approach to gauging the amount of older people living in poverty is beginning to gain clout with the White House.

The formula developed by the NAS estimates that 18.6 percent of Americans over 65 live below the poverty line: that's 6.8 million people. The traditional government formula, created in 1955, puts the elderly poverty rate at 9.7 percent (3.6 million people). The NAS claims that its methodology accounts for increases in the cost of medical treatment and other factors that the incumbent formula does not. Rather, the mid-century method is based on an "emergency food diet" that doesn't necessarily reflect the realities of modern economic life. Academics and members of both major political policies agree that change is necessary.