WASHINGTON -- Social Security is a critical income source for elderly and disabled Latinos because of their socioeconomic condition, higher rates of disability and longer life expectancy, according to a report published by the University of Southern California (USC) Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging.
ÂSocial Security is currently the only robust, reliable source of retirement income for low-income workers, underscoring the importance of ensuring the programÂs viability for current, future and retired Latino workers,Â said USC Roybal Institute Executive Director William A. Vega, who co-authored the primer, commissioned by AARP, with Pre-Doctoral Fellow Zachary D. Gassoumis.
Latinos represent a significant percentage of working-class laborers in sectors with fluctuating seasonal employment, where occupational injuries and disabilities are common, and where there are fewer opportunities to participate in a workplace savings program. Both working age and older Latinos have higher rates of disability than non-Latino whites. Accordingly, the primer said, increasing the retirement age for Social Security would impose a significant and disproportionate financial burden on Latinos who retire early due to work-related health issues.
Noting that LatinosÂ average life expectancy exceeds that of Americans overall, the report highlighted the importance of ensuring benefits to qualified Latinos are not eroded over time by inflation and continue to allow families to meet their basic financial necessities.
ÂWe must stay true to the original intention of Social Security, and provide adequate resources for a sustainable and dignified retirement,Â Vega said. ÂGiven current unstable economic conditions, this will require a sufficiently flexible policy framework that will not render people with low incomes vulnerable to hardships that other Americans are not expected to endure.Â
Almost half of all older Latinos would live in poverty without Social Security benefits; 25 percent of Latino men and 27 percent of Latinas aged 65 or older relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their family income, the report said.
Although Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation, they remain a relatively young population and will contribute to the Social Security system for many years to come without receiving benefits until decades later, the primer said.
ÂThe promise of retirement security that Social Security provides for millions of Americans today is particularly significant to Latinos, both now and in the future, as demonstrated by this important research,Â said AARP board member Fernando Torres-Gil. ÂThis Roybal Institute report underscores the need for our elected officials to consider what impact any proposed changes to the program will have on all Americans as they work to strengthen retirement security for future generations.Â