Retirement insecurity dramatically rises among seniors of color

More than half of African American and Latino seniors struggling

Photo/Mike Lovett

Tatjana Meschede

Four percent of Latino seniors and 8 percent of African-American seniors have the resources to maintain economic security for the duration of their lives, according to the report, “The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African-American and Latino Seniors.” The research, compiled by the Heller School's Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the national policy center Demos, underscores how the nation’s seniors were experiencing declining economic security before the Great Recession.
While only one in four white seniors currently have adequate resources for a secure retirement, the disparity between whites and people of color reveals that for seniors of color, retirement insecurity is the norm and security is the exception. 
This report looks to the history of racial discrimination in the housing and labor markets to explain this unique condition of insecurity among seniors of color: the extensive practice of redlining, segregation and workplace discrimination has inhibited the ability of today’s seniors of color to accumulate the asset wealth needed for a secure retirement. Inequality experienced over the course of one’s lifetime is compounded in later years and can continue with ripple effects over generations.

In response to these findings, the report makes the following recommendations:

  • Ensure the strength and adequacy of the Social Security program.
  • Sustain funding for senior support services, which help seniors meet basic needs.
  • Foster sustainable homeownership by prohibiting predatory loans and financial products, which strip wealth from families, particularly in low-income neighborhoods of color and older households.

“It is unacceptable, in a country committed to equality of opportunity, to have nine in 10 Latino senior households and more than eight in 10 African-American senior households suffer from retirement insecurity,” said Tatjana Meschede, research director at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and co-author of the report. “Our elected officials must summon the courage to acknowledge and combat the extreme racial inequities among American seniors.”
Jennifer Wheary, Demos senior fellow, says it will be impossible to end economic insecurity among seniors of color without addressing the early sources of the problem.

"We must act now to end discrimination in the mortgage industry and with predatory loans that place the wealth of families of color at risk,” said Wheary. “Strengthening Social Security and Medicare is not simply an issue for senior citizens but a racial justice imperative for the country as a whole.”
“The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African-American and Latino Seniors” is the newest analysis in the Demos-IASP series entitled “Living Longer on Less.”

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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