After having actively participated in the workforce, every older American looks forward to spending their golden years in dignity and economic security. Unfortunately, economic insecurity is a devastating condition for many Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers.
Currently, the poverty rate among Hispanic seniors is a whopping 17.9%. Economic insecurity is especially difficult for older adults who are often not physically able to improve their economic situation by re-entering the workforce. Moreover, most of the elders experiencing economic insecurity spent their youth and adulthood in the workforce, but were not able to save enough money to support their basic needs in older age.
This is because many service sector and labor jobs held by Hispanics are low-wage and low-benefits, resulting in no established retirement fund because of lack of employer contributions and lack of sufficient income to build savings.
The current economic downturn has made these conditions even more dire, wiping out wealth accumulated in Hispanic households during boom years, including property value, and making even low-wage and low-benefits jobs scarce. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic household wealth fell 66% between 2005 and 2009.
Latino families also endure disproportionately high levels of unemployment— 11.3% compared to the national rate of 9.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These current conditions among working-age Hispanic head of households point to even higher levels of economic insecurity among older adults in the future.
Moreover, the economic downturn combined with high national debt has resulted in a political push to put federal programs on the chopping block that were once considered immune to cuts, among them Social Security. Hispanic older adults are more likely to be wholly dependent on Social Security than any other racial or ethnic group. Without Social Security, a full 50% of Hispanic older adults would be living in poverty.
NHCOA is working to improve economic security among Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers by advocating for the maintenance and strengthening of Social Security, as well as ensuring that the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which mandates services for older Americans to age with dignity and economic security, is sensitive to the needs of Latino seniors.
Among the programs authorized by the Act is the Senior Community Services Employment Program, which provides jobs and employment training for more than 70,000 seniors across the country; and nutrition programs that provide millions of meals for older adults in their homes.