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Income, Material Hardship, and the Use of Public Programs among the Elderly
by Helen Levy
WP 2009-208

I use data from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study to analyze the determinants of material hardship among individuals ages 65 and older. Ten percent of the elderly report hardship – defined here as cutting back on food or medications because of cost – in 2006. Although hardship is more likely for poorer individuals and, to some extent, for recipients of public transfer programs (Medicaid, Food Stamps, and/or Supplemental Security Income), the majority of those experiencing hardship are not poor and do not participate in these programs. In multivariate models, I find that self-reported health and activity limitations are significant predictors of hardship.

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