Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Hispanics Understanding of Social Security and the Implications for Retirement Security: A Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Hispanics Understanding of Social Security and the Implications for Retirement Security: A Qualitative Study

Article excerpt

Hispanics constitute the nation's largest minority group, and the Census Bureau projects the Hispanic share of both the overall and the retirement-age U.S. population to increase substantially in the next three decades. Compared with other racial/ethnic groups, Hispanic adults have the lowest rates of high school and college graduation, are more concentrated in low-wage jobs, and have lower incomes and health insurance coverage. However, Hispanics' life expectancy is greater than that of other population groups. These trends underscore the importance of effective outreach to Hispanics to improve their understanding of Social Security and to enhance their retirement security overall. In this article, we examine Social Security literacy and preferred ways of receiving information about the program. We assemble focus groups of three ancestries (Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban) and of English and Spanish speakers. We report the differences and the similarities in the results among these ancestry and primary-language subgroups.


As members of the baby-boom generation reach retirement age, concern is growing about the adequacy of retirement planning and savings in the United States. Although the literature on retirement preparedness suggests that many Americans might face economic insecurity in their senior years (Rhee and Boive 2015; Government Accountability Office 2015; Williams and Jackson 2015), an increasing number of studies suggest that certain demographic groups face particular challenges--and Hispanic Americans are one such group (Hopkins 2014). Those challenges include comparatively low-wage jobs, low levels of wealth, limited health insurance coverage, and longer life expectancies. As a result, Hispanics are at greater risk than the general population of having low levels of retirement savings and, therefore, of relying on Social Security benefits as a major source of retirement income.

Prospective reliance on Social Security income in retirement means that it is important for Hispanics to be informed about program provisions. (1) The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides information on retirement benefits in English and Spanish and uses a variety of media to deliver that information to the public. However, such efforts might not adequately inform all Hispanics about their Social Security retirement benefits. After all, the Hispanic community is not homogeneous. According to studies by the Pew Research Center, about 65 percent of Hispanics in America are of Mexican ancestry, almost 10 percent are Puerto Rican, and Cubans and Salvadorans each represent about 4 percent (Lopez, Gonzalez-Barrera, and Cuddington 2013; Krogstad 2016). Among Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries, the three largest ancestry groups are Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans, representing 52 percent, 14 percent, and 10 percent, respectively (Martin 2007).

Selected Abbreviations

NCLR  National Council of La Raza
SSA   Social Security Administration
UAS   Understanding America Study

In addition to the cultural differences between Latin American places of origin, these Hispanic subgroups differ in terms of median age, educational attainment, poverty rates, and homeownership rates (Lopez, Gonzalez-Barrera, and Cuddington 2013). Those economic, demographic, and cultural differences might affect not only knowledge about Social Security but also preferred ways of receiving program-related information. We conducted focus-group sessions composed of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans and found differences between those subgroups (as well as between English speakers and Spanish speakers) in knowledge of Social Security programs and benefits and in preferred ways of receiving program-related information. (2) Our study is one of the first to research these between-group differences and discuss their implications.

Enhancing Hispanics' understanding of Social Security is important for the target population and for SSA. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.