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Retirement Prospects Poor for Blacks and Latinos

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2012

CONTACT: Rebecca Graham, 510‐642-9187,

Berkeley — As Black History Month draws to a close, a new University of California, Berkeley, research brief finds that Black and Latino seniors face even tougher times in retirement than American seniors as a whole.

“Recent household surveys show that retirees of color, especially Blacks and Latinos, rely more heavily on Social Security and have less access to other types of retirement income than their white counterparts,” said researcher Nari Rhee of UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Rhee’s research brief, “Black and Latino Retirement (In)Security,” is based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey and U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

FiguresThe research brief’s main findings include:

  • Elder poverty rates are twice as high among Blacks and Latinos compared to the U.S. population as a whole: 19.4 percent of Black seniors and 19.0 percent of Latino seniors have incomes below the federal poverty line, compared to 9.4 percent for the senior population overall (see right).

  • Less than a third of employed Latinos and less than half of Black workers in full-time jobs are covered by an employer sponsored retirement plan, a critical resource in ensuring adequate retirement income.  As a result, they are disproportionately reliant on the limited income provided by Social Security.

  • Among retirees age 60 and older, people of color are disproportionately likely to be low income: for 2007-2009, 31.6 percent of Blacks and 46.5 percent of Latinos were in the bottom 25 percent income group. The “other” race group, which includes Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American populations, is also more likely to be low-income (38 percent) (see right, lower).
  • “Black workers face systemic challenges that lead to high rates of unemployment and a concentration in low-wage jobs,” said Steven Pitts, a labor policy specialist at the center, and author of a monthly Black worker report.“ This research brief shows that these manifestations of structural racism faced by Black workers lead to economic outcomes today that impact retirement long into the future.”

    Rhee said, “It is critical to improve both job access and job quality—in terms of wages and benefits, including pension benefits—to improve retirement prospects for current workers,” a reminder that the job crisis we face today may have long-term repercussions.  

    The research brief can be found online.

    Nari Rhee

    Center for Labor Research and Education
    2521 Channing Way # 5555
    Berkeley, CA 94720-5555
    TEL (510) 642-0323    FAX (510) 642-6432

    A public service and outreach program of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment