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Older Hispanics Hit Hardest By Recession

Twice as many lost jobs, others saw cuts in pay and work hours, AARP survey finds.

The recession took a financial toll on millions of Americans, but older Hispanics apparently fared worse, according to an AARP survey released Monday.

Twice as many Hispanics age 45 and older (21 percent) lost their jobs in the 12 months ending in January, compared with the general population (10 percent). And one-third of those who managed to keep their jobs endured pay cuts or reduced hours, the survey found.

As many as one in three older Hispanics (33 percent) had problems paying the rent or mortgage, compared with 15 percent of the general population, the survey found. Similarly, more than two in five (43 percent) had difficulty coming up with money for essentials such as food and utilities—almost double the 23 percent reported by the general population.

The survey of about 1,400 people age 45-plus was part of AARP’s ongoing effort to learn how older Americans were coping in today’s economy.

AARP, which conducted the survey with the National Hispana Leadership Institute and impreMedia, has begun hosting career fairs for older workers in 48 cities to help people find job opportunities and to offer advice on how best to market themselves.

Last month, AARP released similar data examining the recession’s effect on African Americans. Like Hispanics, African Americans were also found to be disproportionately hurt by the downturn.

Monday’s report on Hispanics didn’t surprise Leo Estrada, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and an expert on ethnic and racial demographic trends.

“Latino families depend a lot on two-worker incomes, and the loss of one person working is a major hit,” says Estrada, who is also an AARP board member. “One thing we see with Latino and Hispanic populations, as with others, is that they’re trying to find ways to cut back costs. There’s a lot of self-sacrificing from women in these communities to make sure their children suffer less.”

To that end, the survey results also showed the steps many have taken to improve their financial outlook. Nineteen percent of Hispanics 45-plus delayed retirement, one in 10 returned to work from retirement and 10 percent took a second job. Eight percent started their own businesses.

Long-Term Effects

For many, the harsh economic climate had health and financial ramifications, some of which will be long-term. Among them:

One in three (35 percent) cut back on their medications, more than double the 15 percent of the general population that reported the same.

One in five (20 percent) lost their employer-provided health insurance, versus 13 percent of the general population.

Nearly one in five (18 percent) had a child move in for financial reasons and 7 percent had a parent move in, compared with 13 percent and 2 percent of the general population, respectively.

Five percent filed for bankruptcy, versus 2 percent of the general population.

When it came to retirement savings, Hispanics, like others, said they were struggling to contribute to their accounts. Only 33 percent of Hispanics polled said they had a 401(k), 403 (b) plan or IRA; of those, 28 percent said they withdrew funds prematurely, compared with 19 percent of the general population. Nearly half (45 percent) stopped contributing to their retirement accounts altogether, compared with 31 percent of the overall population.

More Caregiving

Older Hispanics also seemed to take on more caregiving responsibilities, the survey found. Some examples include:

Nearly one in five (19 percent) cared for a parent, more than double the 8 percent of the general population.

Almost two-thirds (31 percent) cared for a child under 18, versus 19 percent of the general population

One in four (24 percent) cared for an adult child compared, with 14 percent of the general population

16 percent cared for a grandchild compared with 7 percent of the general population.

Nearly one in 10 (8 percent) cared for an in-law, compared with 3 percent of the general population.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at AARP Bulletin Today.