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Social Security Benefits a Critical Income Source for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans

For Immediate Release


Media Relations


Social Security Benefits a Critical Income Source for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans

New Report by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development Finds Existing Social Security System Best Way to Provide Some Financial Security for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans

WASHINGTON, March 7 – Social Security is a critical income source for elderly and disabled Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and the existing system is the best way to guarantee a measure of financial security for them and their families, a new report said on Monday.

The report, released by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, shows that Social Security keeps 19 percent of older Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APAs) out of poverty and that of those APAs of all ages receiving the program’s disability insurance, 56.2 percent relied on it for more than 75 percent of their incomes.

Among Asian and Pacific Islander Americans age 65 and older receiving Social Security income, 29 percent of married couples and 60 percent of unmarried people relied on it for more than 90 percent of their incomes, the report said.

“Asian and Pacific Islander Americans depend on Social Security benefits as a critical income source, both as elders and as disabled people of all ages,” according to Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Social Security: A Primer.

“The existing Social Security system is the best way to guarantee some measure of financial security to disabled and elderly Asian and Pacific Islander American workers and their families,” the primer said.

The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform late last year recommended a number of changes to the Social Security system.  As changes to Social Security are considered, it is important to understand how different races and ethnic groups in the United States utilize the system.

The Insight Center’s primer, commissioned by AARP, is intended as a starting point to fill the gap in research on how Asian and Pacific Islander American workers use Social Security – research that will become increasingly important in the future.

“Because this population is projected to almost double again by 2050, rising to 9 percent of all Americans, more research is needed to ensure their needs are met as reform of the Social Security program is considered,” said the Insight Center’s Meizhu Lui, who wrote the primer.

It’s important that such research be broken down by ethnic group because “the

APA economic profile varies widely by ethnicity, with some at the high end, and others, like the Hmong, among the poorest Americans,” said Lui, director of the Insight Center’s “Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative.”

Other major findings of the primer include the following:

* Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustments are particularly important to Asian elders because their life expectancy at 65 is three years longer than all Americans.

* Social Security’s progressive benefit structure helps APAs, whose benefit levels are lower than the total population.

* Southeast Asians are particularly reliant on Social Security Disability Income. 

* Language, cultural issues and lack of awareness of the Social Security program present a barrier for many foreign-born Asians to access critical benefits to which they are entitled.

“The modest, hard-earned Social Security benefits that millions of Asian Americans receive are critical for the financial and retirement security for themselves and for their families,” said Mae Mendelson, AARP board member. “This important research from the Insight Center highlights the need for our elected officials to consider the impact of any proposed changes to Social Security benefits for current and future generations of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, as we look for ways to strengthen retirement security for current and future generations.”

AARP also supported the development of a Social Security primer on African Americans, which is available on the website of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, An AARP-commissioned Social Security primer on Hispanic Americans will be released in the next several weeks.

For more information, please contact AARP Media Relations at 202-434-2560 or 


The Insight Center for Community Economic Development is a national research, consulting and legal organization dedicated to building economic health in disenfranchised communities. Its mission is to develop and promote innovative solutions that help people and communities become, and remain, economically secure.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership 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 nearly 35 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, 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. 

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