Disparities in Economic Security for New Yorkers of Color 50 and Older

New Economy Project undertook this report, at the request of AARP, to examine barriers to economic security faced by 50+ New Yorkers of color, including immigrants. The analysis focuses on economic justice disparities statewide and in New York City, with attention also given to Long Island and Buffalo. Findings are based on extensive data analysis, along with interviews with multiple stakeholders.

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Any analysis of economic justice disparities based on race and ethnicity must be presented within the larger framework of long-standing, structural inequities. This report provides a summary of major income and wealth disparities and other economic security issues facing 50+ New Yorkers of color, and includes four sections: Demographics & Key Indicators of Economic Security; Barriers to Economic Security; Emerging Issues; and Recommendations. This paper analyzes disparities in educational opportunity and attainment, homeownership levels, and retirement savings, which effectively serve to perpetuate inequality, segregation, and poverty. The paper also documents several key areas – including access to safe and affordable banking products, foreclosure risk, debt collection, and challenges for local small businesses – to illustrate systemic economic security issues that 50+ New Yorkers of color face, and recommend needed policy changes.

Key Findings

Demographics/Income & Wealth Inequality

  • Looking at median retirement incomes statewide, most 50+ New Yorkers of color retire near the poverty threshold, in contrast to 50+ white New Yorkers, whose retirement incomes, although low, are almost double that of 50+ New Yorkers of color.
  • Among 50+ New Yorkers, only one out of five homeowners in New York State is a person of color, even though people of color make up one third-of the state population overall. By contrast, 80% of homeowners in New York State are white, even though white people make up 67% of the total population.
  • Statewide, 50+ homeowners of color are twice as likely as 50+ white homeowners to be “severely cost burdened,” i.e., paying 50% or more of their incomes to cover housing costs.

Access to Safe & Affordable Financial Services

  • In NYC neighborhoods of color, there is just one bank branch, on average, for every 10,000 residents, compared to 3.24 branches for every 10,000 residents in all other NYC neighborhoods.
  • More than one-third of Latino New Yorkers in the 55-64 age group (34.9%), and almost one-fourth of Latino New Yorkers 65 and older (23.3%), do not have a bank account. Only 1.6% and 1.0%, respectively, of white New Yorkers have no bank account. The push to deliver Social Security benefits by direct deposit likely accounts for the lower percentages of 65+ New Yorkers without bank accounts.

Foreclosure Risk & Deed Theft

  • Neighborhoods with the highest foreclosure risk are almost exclusively communities of color, including many middle- and upper-income black neighborhoods with large 50+ populations.
  • Deed theft scams, in which fraudsters steal people’s homes out from under them, are on an alarming rise. One stakeholder referred to deed theft as the most harmful type of scam perpetrated against older New Yorkers of color.

Policymakers at all levels of government should make it a top priority to eliminate deeply-rooted racial injustices, economic inequality, and segregation that pervade our institutions and threaten our very social fabric. Recommendations set forth in the paper focus on practical and immediate steps New York State and NYC should take to address specific practices and emerging trends that create and perpetuate disparities for 50+ New Yorkers of color. There is growing consensus that strong state and local action is especially needed.