Social Security Privatization Affecting African Americans

Franklin Roosevelt established the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance Program (OASDI) otherwise known as Social Security to provide protection from the economic fear of sickness, accident, old age and unemployment. As all workers will eventually grow old, become disabled or die, Social Security will provide them and their families with economic security.

Social Security is the main source of retirement income for forty percent of elderly African Americans. Most African Americans are more likely to rely on social security as their only income in old age. This is because of the discrimination in the labor market that limits the opportunity of African Americans to get jobs that offer pension benefits. Additionally, African American workers today are employed in low wage jobs and most experience poverty and underemployment. They have less ability to save and invest for their retirement. As a result, they may depend almost exclusively on Social Security after they retire.

Because African Americans have lower life expectancies than white or Hispanics they are expected to receive benefits for fewer years. While it is true that African American men die at younger ages, they usually die at considerably younger ages, rather than dying at or just prior to retirement. Further, African Americans have higher rates of disability and are more likely to receive benefits from the Social Security disability insurance program. Hence, privatizing Social Security would worsen the earnings difference between African Americans and whites since benefits would be based solely on individual savings. Privatization would simply allow lower income workers including the African American workers to place higher portions of their income into the private accounts. This places greater risk and places their retirement income subject to the uncertainties of the stock market.

Furthermore, practically all of the privatization plans focus on the retirement aspects of the Social Security program but not on the other programs of the system. While proponents of private accounts assert that they would protect the disability and survivors programs, they provide no information on the level of support that would exist in the future, and they do not explain how these benefits would be financed. This would leave African Americans, who benefit excessively from these programs, with even more uncertainty if plans to privatize Social Security are successful. They are more likely to be injured than supported by the removal of the Social Security retirement benefits and their replacement with individual accounts.

Related: Social Security Law Attorney