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AARP Survey: African Americans 45+ Hit Particularly Hard By Economic Recession

February 23, 2010

AARP Media Relations

AARP Survey: African Americans 45+ Hit Particularly Hard By Economic Recession

Findings Show African Americans More Likely to Help Family, Friends Cope with Financial Hardships

WASHINGTON, DC — While millions of Americans have experienced hard times during the economic recession, the environment for many African Americans age 45+ and their families is particularly difficult, according to a new survey by AARP.

The survey, which is part of AARP’s continued look at how Americans age 45+ are faring in this economy, found that over the last 12 months, a third (33%) of African Americans 45+ had problems paying rent or mortgage, and 44% had problems paying for essential items, such as food and utilities. Nearly twice as many African Americans 45+ lost a job than the general population (18% vs. 10%), and almost one in four (23%) lost their employer-sponsored health insurance.

“We have seen the devastating impact that this economic recession has had on the African American community—lack of job prospects, problems paying for basic needs including medical care, and families struggling to make ends meet,” said AARP Vice President Edna Kane-Williams.


African Americans have taken some positive steps to lessen the sting of the recession. Half of those surveyed postponed plans to travel and two-thirds (67%) cut entertainment expenses. Even in the tough employment environment, 12% of African Americans age 65+ returned to the workforce from retirement, while 19% of African Americans age 45 to 64 increased the number of hours worked and 12% took a second job.

Unfortunately, African Americans 45+ have been forced to make increasingly difficult decisions to cope with this economic downturn—decisions that could have serious long-term consequences. A third (34%) stopped putting money into a 401(k), IRA or other retirement account, and a quarter (26%) prematurely withdrew funds from their retirement nest eggs to pay for living expenses, including mortgage or rent, health care, education expenses, and for other reasons. More than three in ten (31%) have cut back on their medications, and 28% have carried a higher balance on their credit cards during the past 12 months.

“The recession has driven many African Americans to make hard choices now that may lead to serious problems down the road,” added Kane-Williams. “Raiding your nest egg or ending contributions, even in the short-term, will have long-term consequences because you will have less time to make up the losses. Cutting back on your health care can compromise your health now and lead to higher health care costs as you age.”


Faced with the extraordinary impact of this economy, African Americans 45+ are more likely to turn to family or the community for assistance, and are more likely to help family members and friends cope with financial hardships.

About one in five African Americans 45+ (22%) consulted friends or family members about finances. Eighteen percent had a child move in for financial reasons, and 44% helped a child pay bills or expenses. Almost one in five (18%) helped a parent pay for basic necessities. African Americans age 45+ were more than twice as likely as all Americans 45+ to seek financial assistance from family, friends, charities and churches (28% vs. 13%).

While some African Americans age 45+ are looking for resources and tools to provide financial information, many may not be aware or are not taking advantage of the accessible resources available to them. African Americans 45+ were half as likely as all Americans in that age group to seek out a financial planner (12% vs. 24%), and only one in ten (11%) consulted online resources about financial planning. Thirteen percent have taken training to get a different type of job, and 18% have attended a job fair to help with their career or job search. Three in ten reported taking training to keep skills up to date or learn new skills for their current job.

“This survey shows that people are managing as best they can in this economy and reaching out for assistance from family and friends. Millions of Americans are hurting today. The good news is that there are many resources available to help people get back on track, and to help families make the best decisions for their health and economic future,” said Kane-Williams.

AARP offers free online resources, publications, and information on events to help Americans cope in this economy—available at These include AARP Real Relief, which offers a wide range of tools to help people look for work, manage finances and find public benefits; financial tip sheets that help people save and plan for retirement; and the 2010 AARP Financial Freedom Tour, which features workshops and financial advice clinics for African American and Hispanic communities in particular.

AARP commissioned the survey, titled “African American Experiences in the Economy: Recession Effects More Strongly Felt.” The telephone survey included a nationally representative general sample of 1002 adults ages 45+ and a targeted sample of 405 Africans-Americans age 45+. It was conducted January 15-27, 2010 by Woelfel Research, Inc.

For more information or to view the complete survey, visit or contact AARP Media Relations at 202-434-2560.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.7 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The following are helpful resources:

Real Relief - a wide range of offerings to help people look for work, manage finances, and find public benefits.

50+ Worker Resources

Helping Experience Work @50+ -- 48 job fairs in 2010 in 19 different states. AARP bringing together job seekers and local businesses at specially designed job fairs. Register at or contact Ed Redfern at 202-434-2471 Job Search Engine- free online service that allows users to search for opportunities with thousands of employers nationwide that have age-friendly hiring practices.
AARP National Employer Team—National companies that have joined with AARP because they want to hire older workers and recognize that older workers bring leadership, experience, and skills to do the job.
AARP JobLoss Webpage—Online resources including a job loss webinar, tips on how to plan for loss of income and health insurance.
Online Community—The Water Cooler, where participants can seek and share advice about finding a job, jump-starting a new career or business, returning to work after retiring, achieving work/life balance, tackling age hang-ups, and more.
AARP Foundation WorkSearch website is a customized online system that helps qualified individuals who are 40 and over to assess their skills, match to careers and link to training and job openings. Including:
* WorkSearch Assessment—a customized online system that helps qualified individuals who are 40 and over to assess their skills, match to careers and link to training and job openings.
* Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), for low income and 55 years and older.
* Training Assistance Program—helps qualified individuals with job training costs. Applicants must be 40 or over, at or below the median income for their community, and seeking employment

Financial Security Resources

AARP Financial Freedom Tour—Five city tour presented by AARP state offices and local African American and Hispanic community organizations featuring a half day of free interactive workshops presented by certified financial planning professionals from the CFP Board, and free financial advice clinics. Dates for 2010 have not been set, but events will be held in VA, NM, TN, NY, PA.
Financial Tip Sheets—Online and downloadable English and Spanish worksheets that explain in simple language the ins and outs of saving and planning for retirement and short term goals, investment tips and vehicles, avoiding foreclosure and recognizing mortgage scams among others.

Financial Calculators—online tools that can help users determine:
* how much monthly savings are needed to have a secure retirement
* how increasing retirement contributions to an employer-sponsored plan will affect take home pay
* what it will take to pay off credit card balances
* the differences in cost/benefits between a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account and a traditional health plan.
Benefits QuickLINK- online enrollment tool for public benefits programs that help cover the costs of food, utilities, health care, and medicine

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Resources

Doughnut Hole Calculator—Online tool to help Medicare Part D beneficiaries estimate how much of their prescription drug costs they will have to pay out of pocket and offers a list of alternative drugs that are therapeutically similar but could reduce expenses and stretch coverage.
Medicare Part D – Extra Help Brochure—Available in English and Spanish explains 2010 changes in eligibility that make it easier to save on Medicare drug plan costs. http://infonet/SocialImpact/Health/docs/10524.pdf
Know Your Rx Options—Find effective and affordable drugs, including comparable brand name and generic drugs and price comparisons for treating: high blood pressure, depression, acid reflux, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis.

Caregiving Calculators and Assistance

Online Caregiving Tool Kit—interactive kit featuring expert videos, calculators, and worksheets.
Caregiving CD—Contains forty-six tip sheets on topics ranging from helping older relatives maintain their independence to end of life issues.
Long Term Care Calculator—Online tool that estimates the cost of a nursing home, assisted living facility, and home health aide. calculator.html
Certified Aging In Place Specialists (CAPS) Locator-- Find a CAPS expert who helps caregivers remodel their homes to accommodate loved ones with special needs.
Robust Online Community Groups—Online groups focused on the various aspects of caregiving from local resources to tactics for aging-in-place to respite care.

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