Pensioner poverty

For years, pensioner poverty decreased across the UK, but now those that are single, have non-white ethnicity or have a landlord, are seeing increases

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In the 1990s, pensioner poverty was much higher for single pensioners than pensioners in a couple, with the problem worse for women. In 1996/97, 41% of single female pensioners were in poverty while the high point for single male pensioner poverty was 34% in 1997/98.

The majority of the fall in the overall pensioner poverty rate over the following five years was due to improvements in the single pensioner poverty rates. By 2002/03 the single male poverty rate roughly matched that of pensioners in couples and the single female rate settled at about four or five percentage points higher.

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Pensioners who rent their homes are much more likely to be in poverty than owner-occupiers. This is due to pensioners who retire as owner-occupiers having higher levels of private income, such as occupational pensions and investment income, as well as having lower housing costs.

Poverty rates for pensioners who rent their home were very high in the 1990s. For those in social housing, the poverty rate peaked at 54% in 1996/97, fell to 20% in 2012/13, and has risen back to 29% in 2018/19. For those renting from private landlords, the peak was 46% in 1997/98 and the low point was 27% in 2007/08, before rising back up to 34% in 2018/19.

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The poverty rate for pensioners in White households has been lower than that for other ethnic groups throughout the last 20 years.

Pensioners in Bangladeshi households have seen the largest fall in poverty rates over this period, although most groups have seen reductions. However, for Pakistani households, after falling in the years to 2005/06, the pensioner poverty rate rose again and by 2015/18 it was higher than in 1994/97. Poverty among Black pensioners has also risen since 2009/12.