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African Americans, Retirement and Social Security

Life spans are shorter, and disability rates are higher

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    Social Security is Neutral

    The Social Security program is neutral in terms of race or ethnicity, but how do people of color interact with the system compared with the population as a whole? The Social Security Administration’s Office of Retirement and Disability Policy and the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) released statistics based on data collected between 2009 and 2013.

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    Retirement and Social Security

    Social Security is the main source of income for people of color in retirement because they are less likely to hold employment with pensions or retirement savings programs. In 2010, NASI found that 30 percent of African Americans and 19 percent of Hispanics received pension benefits or related savings, compared with 42 percent of whites.

    SOURCE: Social Security and People of Color-NASI

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    Poverty in Retirement

    At 62 and older, African Americans were twice as likely to have incomes below the federal poverty level — 17.9 percent versus 8.3 percent of all beneficiaries. The SSA Office of Retirement and Disability Policy reports, “African Americans encounter significant economic disadvantages.”  

    SOURCE: Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

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    Life Span and Race

    While African Americans rely heavily on certain Social Security benefits, they often have a shorter life expectancy than other races. According to NASI, in 2011 the expected life span for African American men 65 and older  was 79 years; it was 82 years for all men 65 and older. The New-York based National Jobs for All Coalition (NJFAC ) concludes that the gap remains due to “persistent poverty, discrimination, more dangerous jobs and less access to medical care.”

    SOURCE: Social Security and People of Color-NASI
    SOURCE: The National Jobs for All Coalition

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    Surviving Spouse Benefits

    African Americans have a lower rate of marriage than the general population and apply less often for surviving spouse benefits. According to SSA, 29.5 percent of African Americans are married, compared with 49.3 percent of the total population.

    SOURCE: Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

     

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    Disability Benefits

    SSA data found that African Americans qualify for disability benefits at a higher rate than the population as a whole: 14.4 percent versus 12.6 percent. While the leading causes of death for all races are heart disease and cancer, African Americans experience greater degrees of chronic diabetes, hypertension and obesity than other groups.

    SOURCE: Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

     

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    SSI Benefits

    SSA provides stipends to low-income people 65 and older through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, as well as to younger individuals if they are blind or disabled. The SSI percentages are higher for African Americans: 20.9 percent are 15 years or older, 22.7 percent are of working age and 16.8 percent are of retirement age.

    SOURCE: Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

     

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    SSI Payments

    African Americans receive SSI more often than the total population, but the payments are lower. Payments to all recipients 62 and older are 18 percent higher than those received by African Americans in the same age group. And payments for those 15 and older are 7 percent higher for the total population than for African Americans.

    SOURCE: Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

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