WASHINGTON, DC – African Americans are far more reliant on the Social Security program than many realize, and accordingly they need to take an active role in the debate over its future, according to a new report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
African Americans and Social Security: A Primer, dispels misrepresentations about African Americans – such as those supporting the belief that African Americans do not benefit from Social Security because of their shorter life expectancy. Information in the report is intended to provide a basis for discussion as Congress considers changes to the retirement, disability and survivor benefits program as a means of addressing the nation’s fiscal woes.
In fact, the report says, Social Security benefits are the only source of income for two out of five African American retiree households that receive benefits, and more than one-third of African Americans expect Social Security to be their major source of retirement income. While African American children are 15 percent of the nation’s children, they comprise fully 20 percent of children who receive Social Security disability benefits.
The primer, commissioned by AARP, was written by Dr. Wilhelmina A. Leigh, an economist who is a Senior Research Associate at the Joint Center.
"When we as a nation discuss ways to assure that Social Security remains a vital source of support for Americans, we must be mindful of the needs of African Americans and others who are most dependent on the system," she noted.
“We anticipate that highlighting the facts about the importance and impact of the Social Security program to African Americans will inform the debate over the future of this program, particularly as our elected representatives struggle with budget issues,” said Ralph B. Everett, the Joint Center’s President and CEO.
“Social Security continues to serve as the bedrock of retirement security for millions of Americans today – particularly African Americans as demonstrated by this important research – and these hard-earned benefits will also help provide financial security for our children and grandchildren who will likely have fewer other resources to depend upon for their retirement,” said Diane Pratt, AARP Board Member. “AARP agrees wholeheartedly with the Joint Center that it is more important than ever for our elected leaders to think about the impact of any proposed changes to Social Security on real people and to strengthen the program for the future.”
AARP also is supporting the development of additional Social Security primers focused on Hispanic Americans and on Asian Americans.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation’s leading research and public policy institutions and the only one whose work focuses primarily on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color.