It’s Much Harder for Black and Latino Workers to Retire, Study Finds

Elder poverty rates are twice as high among Blacks and Latinos compared to the U.S. population as a whole.

By Jorge Rivas Feb 22, 2012

Black and Latino seniors have a tougher time during their retirement years than American seniors as a whole, according to a new University of California, Berkeley, report.

"Recent household surveys show that retirees of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, rely more heavily on Social Security and have less access to other types of retirement income than their white counterparts," researcher Nari Rhee of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education said in a statement.

Rhee’s report, "Black and Latino Retirement (In)Security," is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey and U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

The report’s main findings include:

  • Elder poverty rates are twice as high among Blacks and Latinos compared to the U.S. population as a whole: 19.4 percent of Black seniors and 19.0 percent of Latino seniors have incomes below the federal poverty line, compared to 9.4 percent for the senior population overall (see rightl).
  • Less than a third of employed Latinos and less than half of Black workers are covered by an employer sponsored retirement plan, a critical resource in ensuring adequate retirement income. As a result, they are disproportionately reliant on the limited income provided by Social Security.
  • Among retirees age 60 and older, people of color are disproportionately likely to be low income: for 2007-2009, 31.6 percent of Blacks and 46.5 percent of Latinos were in the bottom 25 percent income group. The "other" race group, which includes Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American populations, is also more likely to be low-income (38 percent) (see lower right).

Rhee says these findings can serve as a reminder that the job crisis we face today may have long-term repercussions.

"It is critical to improve both job access and job quality–in terms of wages and benefits, including pension benefits–to improve retirement prospects for current workers."