Why minorities depend more on Social Security

at 02:36 PM ET, 10/31/2011

(AFP )
Ethnic minorities are expected to be a majority of the U.S. population by 2042, and that big demographic change will eventually affect Social Security as well — if a bit further down the road. By around 2070 or so, Social Security itself will reflect the new “minority majority” population, predicts Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, which put together a new report on the issue with a coalition of left-leaning policy and minority advocacy groups. The report points out that minority Americans tend to rely more heavily on Social Security than white Americans, given the disparities in wealth and income.

The authors points out that minorities are also less likely to have workplace-sponsored pension programs, as they’re less likely to have employers that offer such benefits. And the wealth gap means they have fewer assets to draw upon. (SSI stands for “Supplemental Security Income,”an auxillary Social Security benefit program.)

Higher rates of poverty, disability, morbidity and — among black and Native Americans — mortality mean that non-elderly Americans also more likely to rely on Social Security survivor and disability benefits than white Americans, who mostly rely on the program for retirement benefits alone. Altogether, more minority Social Security beneficiaries rely on the program as their main source of income than white Americans.

(Source: Gloal Policy Solutions)

The report’s bottom-line message is that Social Security is a more critical safety net for minority Americans, who tend to be poorer and more vulnerable to economic fluctuations than their white counterparts. To be sure, by 2070, economic mobility and security for minorities in the United States could improve significantly, giving them more assets and income outside Social Security in their old age. But Rockeymoore points out, the economic crisis has exacerbated the race gap in wealth and income, which have persisted over many decades. And though benefits are given out according to a progressive formula, Social Security hasn’t been that effective at redistributing wealth from rich to poor households. So it’s worth keeping these current disparities and future demographic changes in mind as deficit-cutting lawmakers toy with big changes to the entitlement program.

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