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Social Security Privatization: A Bad Deal for African Americans

African Americans Account for Over 10 percent of NEA's 2.7 Million Members.

Claims that African Americans Don't Live Long Enough To Collect Their "Fair Share" of Social Security Are False

Proponents of Social Security privatization are trying to claim that the current program is unfair to African Americans and that a privatized program would serve African Americans better. President Bush has asserted that "African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people." This claim is false.

While it's true that the current life expectancy for African American males at birth is only 68.8 years, that doesn't mean that an African American man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. African Americans' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years.

Social Security Is Neutral with Respect to Race or Ethnicity

Individuals with identical earnings histories are treated the same in terms of benefits. However, Social Security Administration statistics show that due to certain demographic trends, African American communities benefit from the Social Security program in several ways.

Social Security is the only source of retirement income for 40 percent of African American seniors. In 2002, the average monthly benefit for African American men receiving retired worker benefits was $850, and for women was $683. SSA estimates the poverty rate for elderly Blacks would more than double -- from 24 percent to 65 percent -- without Social Security

Social Security survivors' insurance substantially helps African American children who would otherwise find themselves poor because of a parent's death. African Americans make up approximately 13 percent of the American population. Twenty-three percent of all children receiving Social Security survivor benefits in 2002 were African American. A recent study by the National Urban League Institute for Opportunity and Equality showed that the benefit lifted 1 million children out of poverty and helped another 1 million avoid extreme poverty (living below half the poverty line). The National Urban League study also found that an African American man dying in his 30s would only have enough in his private account to cover less than two percent of the survivors' benefits now provided by Social Security to his widow and children.

African American families benefit from disability insurance. In 2002, 13 percent of the population was African American; however, 17 percent of disabled workers receiving benefits were African American. (Social Security Administration, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2003.)

Social Security Is Especially Important to African American Women

Social Security is more than just a retirement program, especially for African American women and their families. African American women in particular rely disproportionately on the non-retirement aspects of the program because they have a higher rate of disability than whites of either sex (Lita Jans and Susan Stoddard, U.S. National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Chartbook on Women and Disability in the United States, Data Tables, Figure 5, 1999). African American women often survive deceased husbands. While African Americans make up 9 percent of all female beneficiaries, African American women constitute 18 percent of female disabled worker beneficiaries. (Social Security Administration, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2003.)

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