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Retirement Needs of Latino Baby Boomers

Retirement Needs of Latino Baby Boomers
USC Davis School professor and study co-author Kathleen Wilber

Latino baby boomers in the United States make up a population group so diverse and heterogeneous that the common practice of lumping them into a disadvantaged underclass is entirely inappropriate, according to a new report from the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging.

The article, in the current issue of the Journal of Aging & Social Policy, used data from the 2000 U.S. Census to identify financial disparities within the Latino baby boomer population based upon citizenship status.

“U.S. citizens and naturalized citizens are much better off economically than non-citizens and those born in U.S. territories,” said lead author Zachary Gassoumis, a Ph.D. student at USC.

Non-citizens, many of whom have been living and working in this country for more than 15 years, make up roughly one-third of the 8 million Latino baby boomers. A lack of English fluency and fewer high school graduates account for higher poverty rates among this population.

“Although older Latino non-citizens have been paying into Medicare and Social Security, many of them will not have access to these benefits and will be left with precious few resources when they retire,” Gassoumis said.

The needs of this group, considered a “hidden population” within the Latino boomers, highlight the importance of immigration and naturalization policy to the next generation of U.S. elders, according to the researchers.

“Any discussion of entitlement reforms should consider the impending retirement of the baby boomers’ most vulnerable members, a group that includes many non-citizen Latinos,” said co-author Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging and adjunct professor at the USC Davis School. “Policies concerning the Latino boomer population will serve as a barometer of the willingness of U.S. politicians to address the emerging Latino population as a whole.”

Of the original baby boom generation, the article reveals that 5 million U.S. boomers have been lost to death or emigration. Still, with an influx of 9 million immigrants, about 50 percent of whom were Latino, “there are now approximately 80 million baby boomers in the U.S.,” said co-author Kathleen Wilber, a professor at the USC Davis School. “This number is significantly larger than the figure of 76 million that is often cited by policymakers, press reports and other sources.”

Research was funded by the Ford Foundation.

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