Retirement less lucrative for Latino seniors

The news: Legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives are considering raising the full retirement age to 70 from 67, as part of solutions proposed by a deficit commission to save Social Security money for future generations.

Behind the news: The proposed age change is likely to hit the pocketbooks of Latino seniors the hardest, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis of census data.

Latino seniors have the lowest amount of income among all elderly demographic groups, at an average of nearly $18,000 per year. That’s $31,000 less than the average for white seniors. African-American seniors had the second lowest average, at $23,000 per year.

Of more than 163,000 people ages 68 and 69 in Illinois, the average income among all demographic groups is $31,000.

Nationwide, a 2005 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Social Security benefits were awarded to 1.2 million Latino seniors, reducing their poverty rate by nearly two-thirds to 18 percent.

Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, said the age change would have an adverse effect on Latinos, who tend to work in physically demanding jobs, such as cooks and factory and construction workers, and earn lower wages in general. “We’re the biggest growth sector in the labor market, and the youngest sector in the labor market,” Puente said. “We’re just going to have to work longer than our peers.”

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