The plight of minority elderly Americans

It’s something many people know intuitively but that makes the reality no less harsh when it is framed by concrete figures: the sluggish U.S. economy is squeezing black and Latino seniors even harder than their white counterparts.

The deep recession of 2008-2009 took a heavy toll on the retirement prospects of aging Americans. With so many retirement savings plans linked to employer-based stock market investments, the downturn took a steep toll on the holdings of those who were lucky enough to have savings.

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center shows the extent of the difficulties facing elderly minorities. Here are some of the low-lights:




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.

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.

More Americans expect to work until they die

If you were wondering what two years of wealth destruction have done to the American psyche, the Employee Benefit Research Institute has your answer.

They have conducted surveys asking (among other things) when people expect to retire. Back in 1991, a full 19 percent thought they’d be in full-time relaxation mode before age 60. The latest survey? Only 9 percent think they’ll be that lucky.

Just 17 percent now say they expect to retire at age 60 to 64, down from 31 percent in the 1991 poll. Nearly a third think they’ll be older than 66 before they stop working, up from 11 percent in 1991.