LatinaLista -- As Congress begins to tackle the budget deficit and slashes programs they say are bankrupting the country, the truth is that without one particular program older black women and Latinas would be the ones going bankrupt.
The program is Social Security and according to new research from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, older black women and Latinas need the monthly allowance to keep their heads above poverty.
Black women account for 5.7 million and Latinas account for 1.7 million of the 52.5 million Social Security beneficiaries in the U.S. Without Social Security, the poverty rate among Latinas aged 62-64 would be 34 percent, compared with its current rate of 15 percent. Among black women, the poverty rate for the same age group would be even higher at 36 percent, compared with its current rate of 16 percent.
The anti-poverty effects of Social Security are even stronger among older black women and Latinas. Between the ages of 65 and 74, one in five Latinas is living in poverty--jumping to approximately half of Latinas in this age group if Social Security were not available. Without Social Security, half of black women aged 65-74 and six out of ten of those aged 75 and older would be living in poverty.
Why is Social Security so vital to Latinas? For several reasons.
Latinas may be hard workers and we start in the workforce at early ages but the fact is too many Latinas work for too, too long in low-wage jobs. That means that the earnings put into Social Security are low.
Compound that with the fact that Latinas live a lot longer. Latinas' average life expectancy is 89 years old compared to 85 years for all women and Latino men and 82 years for all men.
Even though the benefits from receiving Social Security won't make anyone -- below $10,000 a year -- most Latinas desperately depend on it since they don't have the luxury of reaping the benefits of a 401K or living off savings or receiving money from any other source. Lives were pretty much lived paycheck to paycheck with maybe a little extra left over.
If Congress, in their infinite wisdom, decides that Social Security should be scrapped, the harm done to the older women of color in this nation would be monumental -- and that's far from a wise decision.