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'Richest Generation'? Baby Boomers Face Deep Inequalities

New report reveals profound disparities along race and gender lines

Race and gender inequalities are poised to deepen, as the number of older Americans continues to climb. (Photo: Getty)

Race and gender inequalities are poised to deepen, as the number of older Americans continues to climb. (Photo: Getty)

It's a familiar trope in U.S. society that baby boomers are the "richest generation."

But a report released online Thursday by the Population Reference Bureau shows that wealth is unequally distributed among this demographic, with people born between 1946 and 1964 facing pronounced disparities along race and gender lines.

For people 65 and older, the poverty rate has decreased dramatically over the past half century—from almost 30 percent in 1966 to 10 percent today, notes Aging in the United States (pdf).

However, closer examination shows wide gulfs within this demographic.

"While just 8 percent of non-Hispanic whites ages 65 and older lived in poverty in 2014, the comparable figures was 18 percent among Latinos and 19 percent among African Americans," note authors Mark Mather, Linda Jacobsen, and Kevin Pollard.

"Older women are especially vulnerable," the report continues. "In 2014, about 12 percent of women ages 65 and older were poor, compared with 7 percent of older men. Among those ages 75 and older, women are nearly twice as likely to be poor (15 percent) compared with men (8 percent)."

The gender disparity is not just the result of women's longer life expectancy. Researchers say higher poverty rates are "also linked to the gender gap in earnings at younger ages, which translates into lower Social Security payments for women in retirement."

Such race and gender inequalities are poised to deepen, as the number of older Americans continues to climb, the report warns. Today there are 46 million people in the U.S over the age of 65, but that figure is poised to jump to 98 million by 2060.

"Economic disparities among younger adults raise concerns about the future health and well-being of older adults," the authors write. "Inequalities among working-age adults by gender, race/ethnicity, and education tend to persist in old age."

"Policymakers and others need to pay attention to these gender and racial/ethnic gaps, which could undermine progress in advancing the well-being of older Americans in the coming decades," the report urges.

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