Retirement Insecurity Dramatically Rises Among Seniors of Color

September 26, 2011

New York—The Institute on Assets and Social Policy and the national policy center Demos published a report today revealing that four percent of Latino seniors and eight percent of African-American seniors have the resources to maintain economic security for the length of their lives. The report, “The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African-American and Latino Seniors,” underscores how the nation’s seniors were experiencing declining economic security even 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 points to the history of racial discrimination in the housing and labor markets to illustrate insecurity among seniors of color: the practice of redlining, segregation, and workplace discrimination severely inhibited the ability of today’s seniors of color to accumulate asset wealth needed for a secure retirement. Inequality experienced over the course of one’s life is compounded in old age and can have 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.
  • Looking forward, foster sustainable homeownership by prohibiting predatory loans and financial products, which strip wealth from families, particularly in neighborhoods of color and among older households.

“It is unacceptable, in a country committed to equality of opportunity, to have nine in ten Latino senior households and more than eight in ten 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.”

“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 Jennifer Wheary, Demos Senior Fellow. “Strengthening Social Security and Medicare is not simply an issue for senior citizens but a racial justice imperative for the country as a whole.”

Read the report

“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.” For more information visit iasp.brandeis.edu.

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