Work Options Important for Minority Elders
Kleyman, Paul, Aging Today
Among those who could benefit particularly well from greater access to phased or gradual retirement programs-which allow workers to draw on part of their pensions while reducing their work schedules-are lower-income and middle-income elders in certain racial or ethnic groups. Citing official statistics, economist Yung-Ping Chen of the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, said that Social Security is now the only source of retirement income for 37% of elderly African Americans and 38% of older Latinos in the United States.
Chen noted that overall in 2002, only 22% of people ages 65 and older in the United States receive employment earnings, down from 36% in 1962. According to Social security Administration (SSA) figures, in 2000, all but those in the highest-income quintile of older Americans received merely from i%-i3% of their financial sustenance from earned income, in contrast to 31% of employment income going to the wealthiest quintile of older Americans. "If opportunities for phased retirement were expanded to as large a spectrum of older workers as possible, this policy change could popularize, universalize and democratize a practice that has heretofore been available only to higher-paid white-collar professionals," Chen said.
He continued, "If older workers are allowed to receive partial pensions as they are paid wages for a reduced amount of work under arrangements for partial retirement, then people could increase their retirement income by lengthening their working years without the strain of fulltime work throughout their careers."
In particular, he said, more flexible work arrangements for older workers could help elders from certain ethnic and racial groups who work in low-income and middle-income jobs.
For example, older Hispanics are especially vulnerable to financial difficulties in retirement. According to a paper published by the National Council of La Raza in August 2004, "How Social Security Benefits the Latino Community" by Eric Rodriguez and Kim Tucker, Latinos are less likely than other groups to receive additional sources of retirement income. For example, the paper cites unpublished data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Demographic Survey 2002, revealing that Hispanics were much less likely to have pension coverage: In 2001, only 26. …