Employment, Income, and Retirement


Employment and labor force participation tends to mirror those rates of the non-Hispanic white elder and African American elder groups. In 1990, there were 29.7% Hispanic/Latino men aged 65-69 in the work force compared to 28.3% non-Hispanic white males. Hispanic/ Latino women in this same age category participated less in the work force at 15% compared non-Hispanic white women at 16.8%. Almost 10% of Hispanic/Latino men over the age of 80 were in the labor force in 1990 compared to 9.6% of non-Hispanic white males. There were more Hispanic/Latino women over the age of 80 in the labor force (5.2%) compared to 2.9% non-Hispanic white women. Most Mexican American and Puerto Rican elders have held occupations in the skilled blue collar and unskilled and laborer positions compared to Cuban elders who have held professional and technical positions (Villa et al., 1993).

Sources of Income

Income sources for elderly Hispanic/Latinos are primarily from Social Security. In 2000 the census data revealed that:

  • 76% Hispanic/Latinos primary source of income came from social security followed by
  • 26% in asset income,
  • 24% earnings,
  • 19% pensions
  • 13% from supplemental security income.

In 2006, households with families headed by a Hispanic/Latino 65 years or over had a median income of 29,868 compared to 41, 220 for non-Hispanic whites (USDHHS, AoA, 2008). About 19% of this cohort of elderly Latinos had incomes of less than 15,000 and 17% have incomes of 50,000. Often because of the low retirement incomes, elderly Hispanic/Latinos continue to work after 65 to supplement their income. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2007), the overall poverty rate for Hispanics over 65 is 20%.

It is evident that many Hispanic elders live well below the poverty level as illustrated in Figure 2.  Older Hispanic/Latino non-married women tend to experience poverty more than Hispanic men at 26.6% compared to 19.6%. Poverty poses a serious threat to the quality of life older Hispanic/Latina women face and suggests they struggle economically in their old age. For many Hispanic/Latino elders, retirement may not an option.  The types of occupations they have experienced have not allowed these elders to obtain sufficient retirement pensions, if any. Many (23%) do not receive Social Security benefits and thus must continue to work to supplement their incomes (Villa, et al, 1993).

In the H-EPESE study of elderly Hispanics from the Southwest, Angel, Frisco, Angel and Chiroboga identified a relationship between financial strain and poorer self-rated health, increased probability of reported problems with physical functioning, and the ability for the elder to provide self-care (2003). The authors conclude that the subjective aspects of health are more strongly related to financial strain and the sample of older Mexican American elderly may have access to social support which has a protective factor from financial strain (Angel, et al, 2003).