Poverty

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IN a study released this week the Urban Institute has shown both how far the United States has come and how far it must yet go to break the link between age and poverty. Some 13 percent of the 65-plus age group were found to have incomes below the poverty line. In other words, the incidence of poverty among the elderly was found to be roughly that of the general population, and roughly half that of children in the United States.

Poverty was once proportionately much more prevalent among older people, and this 13 percent figure is a mark of success of government income programs, notably the supplemental security income (SSI) program and indexation of social security benefits.

But as the study itself stresses, there is a great ``need to dig beneath the averages'' and address the plight of those trapped in specialized pockets of poverty.

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The Urban Institute also found, for instance, that 24 percent of single elderly women living alone and a third of elderly blacks are in poverty.

Yet a tendency to see ``the elderly'' as a demographic monolith, and a fairly affluent one at that, persists. Certainly the 65-plus group makes itself heard in Washington. And the affluent 50-plus crowd, with homes paid for, children through college, and coupons to clip, has replaced ``yuppies'' as the darlings of some marketers.

But the elderly are not all alike, any more than the baby-boom generation. Some need help; some are in a position to assist others.

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