Perhaps no group has as much at stake in the debate over Social Security reform as African Americans. Elderly African Americans are much more likely than their white counterparts to be dependent on Social Security benefits for most or all of their retirement income. Yet Social Security benefits are inadequate to provide for the retirement needs of the elderly poor, which leaves nearly 30 percent of African-American seniors in poverty. As the debate over Social Security reform heats up, several questions have been raised that are of particular interest to the African-American community: .

Is the current system fair to African Americans? . What is the best way to increase savings and wealth in the black community? . Would African Americans be helped or hurt by privatizing the system? . How would other proposed Social Security reforms impact minority workers and retirees? Perhaps no group has as much at stake in the debate over Social Security reform as African Americans. Elderly African Americans are much more likely than their white counterparts to be dependent on Social Security benefits for most or all of their retirement income.

Yet Social Security benefits are inadequate to provide for the retirement needs of the elderly poor, which leaves nearly 30 percent of African-American seniors in poverty. As the debate over Social Security reform heats up, several questions have been raised that are of particular interest to the African-American community: . Is the current system fair to African Americans? . What is the best way to increase savings and wealth in the black community? . Would African Americans be helped or hurt by privatizing the system? . How would other proposed Social Security reforms impact minority workers and retirees? Fact Sheet Social Security is Important to African Americans Social Security has made a difference in the lives of African Americans o Without Social Security, the poverty rate for elderly African American beneficiaries would increase from 21 percent to 60 percent.

o Social Security is the only source of retirement income for 37 percent of elderly African Americans. o African Americans face different situations when it comes to retirement. o Social Security is race neutral - individuals who are in identical life situations are treated the same. People, however, are rarely in identical situations. African Americans tend to have lower earnings than whites and less pension coverage.

Therefore, Social Security benefits are disproportionately important to them. o African Americans have lower life expectancies than whites. The average African American male currently aged 65 can expect to live to about age 79, compared to about age 82 for white men. (For females, the comparable figures are age 83 for African Americans and age 85 for whites). o African Americans have lower earnings. The median earnings of working-age African Americans in covered employment in 1998 was about $16, 300, compared to $22, 000 for the general population.

o African Americans benefit from the Social Security program in several ways. o The Social Security system is progressive. It returns a greater percentage of earnings to a lower-wage person than to a higher-wage person. Currently, average earnings for African Americans are lower than for whites. Therefore, African Americans who receive any type of Social Security benefit are more likely to receive a higher percentage of their pre-entitlement earnings. o Survivors insurance disproportionately benefits African Americans.

African Americans make up approximately 12 percent of the American population, but 23 percent of all children receiving Social Security survivor benefits are African-American. o African American families disproportionately benefit from disability insurance. In 2000, 12 percent of the population was African American, however, 17 percent of disabled workers receiving benefits were African American.