Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



The objective of this paper is to determine Americans’ mobility patterns into and out of poverty in their later years. We track how older adults enter into and exit from poverty using the most extensive longitudinal survey on older Americans currently available, the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). Using over 20 years of data from the HRS, we show that the conditional probability of escaping poverty diminishes as the number of years in poverty rise. In particular, older adults’ chances of exiting poverty fall sharply as their time in poverty lengthens, especially between four and eight years. Having been in poverty that long, the chances of exiting poverty then levels out. These results imply that poverty among the US elderly can be quite a persistent state for many older adults although individuals that escape poverty are often able to have income above the poverty line in future years.


Financial resilience, poverty dynamics, aging

JEL Code

G53, D14, I38

Working Paper Number



This research was performed pursuant to a grant from the Institute of Consumer Money Management.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy any institutions with which the authors are affiliated. ©2022 Clark, Lusardi, and Mitchell. All rights reserved.


The authors also acknowledge support from the Pension Research Council/Boettner Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The authors thank Patrick Royal and Yong Yu for capable research assistance.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 12 April 2022