In a roller-coaster week for many American’s finances, there was even worse news for Asian American elders. We already knew that Asian Americans were hit harder by the recession, and a new study from the Greenlining Institute shows that seniors of color have been especially hard hit by the recession, and in particular, there are pockets of poverty in the Asian American elder community, specifically mentioned were the Hmong, Korean and Cambodian communities.
One of the largest problems facing seniors is that the federal poverty guidelines don’t address many of the basic needs and expenses of seniors, such as health care. For example 71,000 seniors in Alameda County in California cannot meet their basic needs, but 85% of them do not qualify for assistance under the poverty guidelines set by the federal government.
The study also indicated that some Asian ethnic groups have poverty rates three to four times the rate of white seniors. 29% of Hmong seniors and 22% of Cambodian seniors are in poverty (compared with 7.8% for the general white population). As a group 13% of Asian American elders are in poverty. These numbers are actually considered an “under-representation” in the Asian American community and the actual numbers are expected to be much worse.
In California, the numbers are especially troubling. 67% of Asian Americans seniors are financially insecure (compared with 44% of whites, 76% of Latinos and 69% of African Americans). While the numbers are worse for Latinos and African Americans, there are also many Asian Americans seniors living in multi-generational homes whose financial status is unaccounted for.
My own parents were in a similar situation living on Social Security and what was left of their retirement account after it was decimated by losses in the stock market. It was one of the reasons they had to move in with my family in 2005. For me that was an easy decision, but one I know was really hard on my spouse, who isn’t Asian American. My daughter definitely benefited from living with her grandparents. But, if they were still alive today, I know they’d be much worse off financially than they were back then, and I would be supporting them a great deal more financially, something that would be harder for me to do in today’s economy. I don’t know what the solution is to this problem, but you’ll definitely be seeing more Asian American seniors living with their children’s families if this economy continues to worsen.