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Social Security: A Key Retirement Income Source for Older Minorities

As the minority population in the United States grows, it becomes even more important to understand which factors will affect the economic well-being of minorities in retirement. This paper examines differences by race, ethnicity, and nativity of three main sources of income of older Americans (age 65 and older): Social Security, pensions and retirement savings, and assets.

Social Security is the primary source of retirement income for older minorities with nearly one third of older African-Americans and Hispanics relying on it for more than 90 percent of the income that their families receive. Social Security keeps approximately 30 percent of older African-Americans and Hispanics and 20 percent of older Asians out of poverty. Nonetheless, high poverty rates persist among these groups.

Because of lower lifetime earnings (partially brought about by higher rates of disability and higher rates of immigration), older minorities receive less Social Security income than Whites. The typical older White family receives $21,117 in Social Security income. The typical Asian family receives about 15 percent less ($18,024) and the typical Hispanic and African American families both receive about 24 percent less ($16,020 and $15,600, respectively).

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