Written by Paul Kleyman of New America Media
In a dismal week when the most positive economic news for the United States was Friday’s federal data showing anemic employment gains, the plight of ethnic elders looks “even worse than we thought it would be,” according to Henoch Derbew, coauthor of a new report, “The Economic Crisis Facing Seniors of Color.”
“While the recession has affected all American, the effects have been truly devastating for Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans hoping to retire with some dignity,” said Preeti Vissa, director of community reinvestment at the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley, Calif., which released the study Friday.
At a time when Congress and the president are considering cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, she said the report shows that federal and state governments need to take steps to protect lower-income seniors and “to immediately take off the table any proposal that will plunge our most vulnerable elders into poverty.”
Among the report’s findings are that:
• Even before the 2008 recession, a key study found that 91% of African American and Latino seniors are financially vulnerable, while overall figures showing lower poverty levels for older Asian Americans “mask hidden pockets of poverty,” such as among Hmong, Korean or Cambodian seniors;
• The Federal Poverty Line fails to consider factors, such as the high costs of health care, housing and transportation for seniors on fixed incomes;
• Seniors of color have become increasingly reliant on Social Security as they have tapped out their modest savings and employer-based pensions have dwindled in the past 30 years to just over one-in-three African Americans and slightly more than one in five Latino workers.
• The foreclosure crisis has disproportionately affected black and Latino families, draining over $213 billion in wealth from these communities—almost half of the losses to subprime borrowers nationally.
The disproportionately high levels of poverty and near poverty among ethnic seniors will be of growing concern nationally, because they will double by mid-century to four in ten seniors. In the Golden States alone, according to the report, “by roughly 2025, the majority of California’s seniors will be people of color.”
Photo from Bob Jagendorf via flickr creative commons
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