Expert panel says the federal program needs reform to serve America’s changing demographic mix.
Over the next three decades, the United States is projected to become a “majority-minority” nation, with people of color outnumbering whites for the first time. In turn, Social Security must be modernized to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse and economically insecure workforce, according to a report released Thursday.
The report, Plan for a New Future: The Impact of Social Security Reform on People of Color, was released by the Commission to Modernize Social Security, made up of national policy experts representing African-American, Asian-American, Latino and Native American communities.
The experts say that changes to the program must consider the impact on workers and families of color who are more vulnerable to economic instability and far less likely to have generational wealth than white families.
“It’s crucial that policymakers consider how people of color use Social Security and how it can be modernized to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse society,” said Commission member Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions. “People of color are more economically vulnerable and depend on Social Security benefits to meet basic needs when they or family members face death, disability or old age.”
The report is based on U.S. Census Bureau data showing that the majority of babies born today are now from minority racial groups. If this trend continues, the experts say that the U.S. population is expected to become “majority-minority” by 2042.
The report also reveals stark differences in how Social Security is used by whites and people of color. While seventy-four percent of whites depend on Social Security solely for the program’s retirement benefits, almost half (45 percent) of all African-American beneficiaries and a majority (58 percent) of “other” racial groups rely on the program for its survivor and disability benefits.
Plan for a New Future recommends improving benefits for future recipients by:
− Updating the Special Minimum Benefit to 125% of poverty income levels to support those who have spent their adult lives in low-paying jobs and are therefore unlikely to have private pensions or other savings to fall back on.
− Reinstating the student benefit to support students (until the age of 22) attending college or vocational school.
− Increasing benefits for low-income widowed spouses.
− Providing dependent care benefits to help those who serve as unpaid caregivers for children and other dependents.
In order to fund these expanded benefits, the panel suggests making the program less generous for high earners, among other remedies.
To view the whole report, visit here.
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(Photo: New Future Social Security Commission)