AARP Study Shows How Many Blacks Need Social Security

A significant number of African-Americans are in dire need of the benefits, making Social Security an important racial issue.

Posted: 10/22/2012 02:30 PM EDT

As we enter the last stages of the 2012 presidential election, it is important to look at issues that may not get as much attention as voting rights and the recent debates. Today, we’re going to address why it is important that social security is not privatized, as Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan mentioned during his debate with Joe Biden.

And while the Romney-Ryan platform doesn’t call for privatization, Black and Latino seniors may feel worried at the possible loss of this safety net.

“Minorities age 65 and older have higher poverty rates than whites, both including and excluding Social Security income,” writes the AARP. “Without Social Security, 53 percent of older African-Americans and 49 percent of older Hispanics would be in poverty.”

Privatization would allow participants to invest a percentage of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds. However, a new AARP study says a loss of Social Security would pose some serious racial consequences in America.

Writes Charlene Crowell of the Washington Informer:

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, Social Security keeps about 30 percent of older African-Americans and Hispanics from retirement poverty. Yet another 20 percent of these two ethnicities at ages 65 or older, live in poverty at a rate that is double that for whites.

The reasons for these disparities are tied to multiple economic impacts incurred over lifetimes spent in the workplace. Years of working at lower incomes and wages do not easily allow for aggressive savings or investment portfolios. Additionally, many people of color have or held jobs that did not provide for pensions or retirement accounts. For other workers whose employers provided some kind of retirement plan, often the benefits are smaller.

In 2004 and 2010 Ryan promoted plans that would put Social Security funds into the private sector. “Although the plans contained mechanisms to protect payouts to beneficiaries against market fluctuations, nonpartisan studies found that it could destabilize the program’s solvency in the long-term,” according to Sahil Kapurites of Talking Points Memo.

This information is obviously important for all seniors, many of whom depend on Social Security for stability into their twilight years. But it’s especially important for seniors of color, who tend to have less income and retirement savings than their white counterparts. “The median annual Social Security family income of older minorities is roughly 26 percent lower than that of older whites,” notes the AARP report. In other words, with Black seniors being disproportionately poor and particularly hard hit by the recession, whether or not they get Social Security becomes the difference between eating a hot meal or not. We owe it to our seniors to not force them to make that choice.

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