Lewis Diuguid

June 5, 2014

AARP survey of African Americans finds optimism challenged

It’s not surprising that older black people are significantly less optimistic about their finances, employment and workforce discrimination.

Although the stock market continues to reach record highs, the happy days cheers aren’t coming from still-recession-oppressed older African Americans.

A new AARP national survey released this week of 650 African Americans age 50 and older shows that they’re concerned about health care, education, financial security and the digital divide. It’s not surprising that they are significantly less optimistic about their finances, employment and workforce discrimination.

Black people after all were disproportionately targeted and hurt in the subprime mortgage scheme leading up to the Great Recession when the housing bubble burst. It led to a lot of foreclosures and people owing more on their homes than the property was worth.

And African Americans have been disproportionately hurt by company layoffs during the Great Recession and afterward. Black unemployment for at least 50 years has remained double the national unemployment rate.

Until President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, began enrollment, people knew that without jobs they could kiss health care goodbye. So it’s not surprising that the AARP poll found that health care and financial security ranked as older African Americans’ top concerns.

“In light of rapid population growth among multicultural communities, studies such as our African American Social Issues Survey allow AARP to address the unique resource and service needs that have resulted from the demographic shift,” Edna Kane-Williams, AARP vice president, Multicultural Markets and Engagement, said in a prepared statement. “We realize that decisions like knowing when to claim retirement benefits, making health care choices, seeking employment and financial planning can be complex and different for everyone.

“AARP is working to provide all people with enough information to make the right choices for themselves and their families.”

The survey found that optimism was lowest for employment-related issues such as employment discrimination based on age and race, access to better employment opportunities and having a financially secure retirement. And let’s not even talk about worries older African Americans have for their adult children and grandchildren.

Many are having to either live in the older African Americans’ homes or depend on mom and dad kicking a lot of bucks their way for financial support. That’s a problem faced by all economic-recovery bypassed older Americans regardless of race or ethnicity.

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