Social Security is a critical income source for elderly and disabled Latinos because of their socioeconomic condition, higher rates of disability and longer life expectancy, according to a report published by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging.
“Social Security is currently the only robust, reliable source of retirement income for low-income workers, underscoring the importance of ensuring the program’s viability for current, future and retired Latino workers,” said the institute’s executive director William A. Vega, who co-authored the primer, commissioned by the AARP, with pre-doctoral fellow Zachary D. Gassoumis.
Latinos represent a significant percentage of working-class laborers in sectors with fluctuating seasonal employment, where occupational injuries and disabilities are common and where there are fewer opportunities to participate in a workplace savings program.
Both working age and older Latinos have higher rates of disability than non-Latino whites. Accordingly, the primer said, increasing the retirement age for Social Security would impose a significant and disproportionate financial burden on Latinos who retire early due to work-related health issues.
Noting that Latinos’ average life expectancy exceeds that of Americans overall, the report highlighted the importance of ensuring benefits to qualified Latinos are not eroded over time by inflation and continue to allow families to meet their basic financial necessities.
“We must stay true to the original intention of Social Security and provide adequate resources for a sustainable and dignified retirement,” Vega said. “Given current unstable economic conditions, this will require a sufficiently flexible policy framework that will not render people with low incomes vulnerable to hardships that other Americans are not expected to endure.”
Almost half of all older Latinos would live in poverty without Social Security benefits; 25 percent of Latino men and 27 percent of Latinas aged 65 or older relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their family income, the report said.
Although Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation, they remain a relatively young population and will contribute to the Social Security system for many years to come without receiving benefits until decades later, according to the report.
“The promise of retirement security that Social Security provides for millions of Americans today is particularly significant to Latinos, both now and in the future, as demonstrated by this important research,” said AARP board member Fernando Torres-Gil. “This Roybal Institute report underscores the need for our elected officials to consider what impact any proposed changes to the program will have on all Americans as they work to strengthen retirement security for future generations.”
The primer, “Impact of Social Security and Proposed Benefit Changes on the Latino Population,” is available at http://roybal.usc.edu/Latinos-and-SocialSecurity.pdf
AARP also supported the development of Social Security primers that focused on African Americans and Asian Americans.
The report about African Americans is available at assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/build/templates/issues/advocacy/socsec/SSPrimer02011.pdf
The report about Asian Americans is available at assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/build/templates/issues/advocacy/socsec/APASocialSecurityPrimer.pdf