Hispanics, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income

by Patricia P. Martin
Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67 No. 2, 2007

This article uses a relatively new data source—the American Community Survey (ACS)—to document the economic and demographic characteristics of the Hispanic population in the United States. Although the article focuses on Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, other segments of the population are also examined. The ACS data show that the Hispanic population is significantly different from the overall population, particularly with regard to age distribution, education, and economic well-being.


The author is with the Office of Retirement Policy, Office of Policy, Social Security Administration.

Acknowledgments: Harriet Duleep, Dawn Haines, David Timmons, and David Weaver provided helpful comments and suggestions. Special thanks to Todd Williams for help in calculating standard errors for statistical testing

The findings and conclusions presented in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Social Security Administration.

Summary

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hispanics are the country's largest and fastest growing minority, representing about 14.4 percent of the population in 2005 (Census Bureau 2006b). By 2050, Hispanics will account for an estimated 24.4 percent of the population—or 1 in every 4 persons in the United States (Census Bureau 2004, Table 1a). The Hispanic population tends to be younger than the overall population and currently represents a relatively small but growing fraction of the Social Security beneficiary population. The representation of Hispanics in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, however, approximates that of their representation in the overall population.

This article compares the Hispanic population with the overall population along several dimensions, with a particular focus on the Social Security beneficiary and SSI recipient populations. Data are drawn mainly from the 2005 Public Use Microdata Sample of the American Community Survey (ACS PUMS), a relatively new data source with a rich set of economic and demographic variables. Fully implemented nationwide for the first time in 2005, the ACS became the largest household survey in the United States with a sample of almost 3 million addresses.

The analysis using the ACS finds that the Hispanic population is significantly different from the general population, particularly in the areas of age distribution, educational attainment, and economic well-being. Compared with the general population, the Hispanic segment is younger and is characterized by lower levels of educational attainment and a higher rate of poverty. The Hispanic Social Security beneficiary population also differs significantly from the general beneficiary population in the same areas. In contrast, the Hispanic and general SSI populations are more comparable with regard to age and economic status and differ significantly only with regard to education.

Introduction

Hispanics constitute an important, growing, and changing demographic subgroup of beneficiaries of the retirement, survivor, and disability programs under Social Security. Today, only about 6 percent of Social Security beneficiaries aged 62 or older are Hispanic, but according to projections by the Social Security Administration's MINT (Modeling Income in the Near Term) model that figure will exceed 15 percent by 2050.1 Hispanics tend to be younger than the overall population (Ramirez 2004, 4), and by 2050 they may represent an even larger fraction of younger beneficiaries (for example, those under age 62). The Hispanic beneficiary population is not only growing, but its composition is changing. As a result of immigration trends, future Hispanic beneficiary populations will probably reflect a smaller percentage of persons tracing their ancestry to the Caribbean and larger percentages with Mexican and Central American ancestry.2

Hispanics are also an important subgroup of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. SSI is a means-tested program for disabled and elderly persons who have limited income and assets. It is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) but is distinct from the Social Security program. Social Security is financed by payroll taxes and is paid to eligible persons who are lawfully residing in the United States. By contrast, the SSI program is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury and restricts payments to U.S. citizens and certain groups of qualified aliens. SSI is available to persons in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories but, importantly, not Puerto Rico. Most states provide a supplement to the federal benefit. Among persons aged 15 or older, Hispanics represent an estimated 13.0 percent of the SSI population. That figure matches the estimated percentage of Hispanics in the overall population in the same age group (13.0 percent).

The 2005 American Community Survey

Because Hispanics represent a growing subgroup of Social Security beneficiaries and a sizable fraction of SSI recipients, policymakers are showing a greater interest in their well-being.3 To provide a clearer picture of these populations, this article uses the American Community Survey (ACS), which was developed by the U.S. Census Bureau to replace data collected on the long form of the decennial census. Researchers can access detailed ACS data on income, race and ethnicity, and other economic and demographic variables through the survey's Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS), which in 2005 contained data representing about 1.3 million households (Census Bureau 2006c).4 This study used the public-use version of the 2005 ACS PUMS.5 Future Social Security research may be able to use ACS data matched to SSA's administrative records (see Haines and Greenberg 2005, 5).6

Surveys vary, to some extent, in the wording of questions used to ascertain Hispanic origin. In the ACS, the origin of each person in the household is determined by an affirmative response to the following question: "Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?" Respondents are given five choices:

Those in the last category are asked to specify a place of origin. People in this category are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, or the Dominican Republic or identify themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on (Census Bureau 2006a, 40). The Census Bureau notes that origin can be viewed as "heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors" (Census Bureau 2006a, 40). Hispanics may be of any race.

The ACS includes persons who indicated that the United States was their usual place of residence at the time of the survey. This group includes the foreign-born population, which is made up of naturalized U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (immigrants), temporary migrants (for example, foreign students), humanitarian migrants (for example, refugees), and unauthorized migrants (people illegally present in the United States) (Census Bureau 2006a, 31).

The ACS does not ask about immigration status, and thus one cannot decompose the foreign-born population into the various component groups. For that reason, results for Hispanics presented in this article are based on the entire resident Hispanic population and are not restricted to certain groups such as citizens and lawful permanent residents. Note, however, that regardless of a survey's design, certain groups are less likely to be represented in federal surveys. For example, some analysts believe that the net undercount of unauthorized residents in the 2000 Census was much higher than that for foreign-born individuals residing in the country legally—10 percent compared with 2.5 percent (Immigration and Naturalization Service 2003).

Only persons residing in housing units in the 50 states and the District of Columbia were included in the 2005 ACS.7 Future files will also include persons in group quarters such as college dormitories, prisons, barracks, shelters, and nursing homes. In 2000, less than 3 percent of the total population resided in group quarters (Census Bureau 2001).

This article

Comparisons involving the 2005 ACS PUMS data have been statistically tested using replicate weights provided by the Census Bureau. Unless otherwise indicated, all comparisons are statistically significant at the 90 percent confidence level.

Background on the Hispanic Population in the United States

This section presents an overview of the Hispanic population in the United States—where they come from, who they are, and their participation in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income programs.

Growth of the U.S. Hispanic Population

Hispanics now represent the largest ethnic minority subgroup in the United States, and their numbers are projected to increase because of continued immigration and a birth rate that outpaces that of non-Hispanic blacks and whites.8 The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 42.7 million Hispanics lived in the United States in 2005 (Chart 1), representing roughly 14.4 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050, Hispanics are projected to number over 100 million and account for 24.4 percent of the population (Census Bureau 2004, Table 1a).

Compared with the growth of the total U.S. population, growth of the Hispanic population was over five times greater between 1980 and 1990, over four times greater between 1990 and 2000, and almost four times greater between 2000 and 2005 (Chart 1).

Between 1980 and 1990, the Hispanic population grew by 53 percent, (Census Bureau 1993), compared with growth of only 10 percent for the total U.S. population (Census Bureau 2002). Between 1990 and 2000, the Hispanic population grew by 59 percent (Census Bureau 1993, 2006b) compared with 13 percent growth for the total U.S. population (Census Bureau 2002). Between 2000 and 2005, the Hispanic population grew by 20 percent, and the U.S. population grew by 5 percent (Census Bureau 2006b).

Chart 1.
Growth of U.S. Hispanics and the total U.S. population
Historical and projected, 1930–2050
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
1980–2005
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: Actual data (1930-1990) are from Census Bureau (1993). Estimates (2000 and 2005) are from Census Bureau (2006b, Table 4). Projections (2010-2050) are from Census Bureau (2004, Table 1a).
a. Data for 1930 include only "Mexicans," data for 1940 include persons of "Spanish mother tongue," and data for 1950 and 1960 include persons of "Spanish surname." Data for Hispanic origin of any race was not collected in 1950 and 1960 by the U.S. Census.

Country of Origin

More than three-quarters of U.S. Hispanics report being of Central American, primarily Mexican, descent (Chart 2). According to ACS data, the population of Mexico accounted for 26.7 percent of the total population in all Spanish-speaking countries, but the percentage of Hispanics in the United States who reported Mexican origin, or descent, was 2.6 times higher (69.3 percent), as shown in Table 1.9 Also, the U.S. Hispanic population of Mexican origin (26.8 million) is about one-fourth the size of the population of Mexico (107.0 million). These statistics reflect the role that Mexico has played in shaping the Hispanic population in the United States. Furthermore, this role has grown in the past few decades. In 1970, only 56.5 percent of Hispanics reported Mexican origin (Gibson and Jung 2005), excluding the "Other Spanish" category.

Large numbers of U.S. Hispanics report Caribbean origin: those of Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican descent make up some of the largest Hispanic groups in the United States. Other large Hispanic groups include those of Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Colombian descent.

Chart 2.
Origin of U.S. Hispanics, 2005
Region of origin
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Top five countries of origin
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
Table 1. Proportion of Hispanics in Spanish-speaking countries and the United States, by region and country of origin, 2005
Region and country
of origin
Hispanic population in
Spanish-speaking countries
Hispanic population in the United States a
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Ratio relative to
all countries
of origin
combined
Total 401,333,000 100.0 38,651,397 100.0 . . .
Caribbean
Cuba 11,269,000 2.8 1,461,574 3.8 1.35
Dominican Republic 8,895,000 2.2 1,118,265 2.9 1.31
Puerto Rico b 3,955,000 1.0 3,781,317 9.8 9.93
Central America
Costa Rica 4,327,000 1.1 108,164 0.3 0.26
El Salvador 6,881,000 1.7 1,239,640 3.2 1.87
Guatemala 12,599,000 3.1 758,898 2.0 0.63
Honduras 7,205,000 1.8 459,653 1.2 0.66
Mexico 107,029,000 26.7 26,781,547 69.3 2.60
Nicaragua 5,487,000 1.4 281,167 0.7 0.53
Panama 3,232,000 0.8 136,375 0.4 0.44
South America
Argentina 38,747,000 9.7 185,678 0.5 0.05
Bolivia 9,182,000 2.3 65,582 0.2 0.07
Chile 16,295,000 4.1 102,911 0.3 0.07
Colombia 45,600,000 11.4 730,510 1.9 0.17
Ecuador 13,228,000 3.3 436,409 1.1 0.34
Paraguay 6,158,000 1.5 15,084 0 0.03
Peru 27,968,000 7.0 412,349 1.1 0.15
Uruguay 3,463,000 0.9 50,921 0.1 0.15
Venezuela 26,749,000 6.7 164,903 0.4 0.06
Europe
Spain 43,064,000 10.7 360,450 0.9 0.09
SOURCES: Data on the Hispanic population in Spanish-speaking countries are from United Nations (2005). Data on the Hispanic population in the United States are from the 2005 American Community Survey, Table B03001.
NOTE: . . . = not applicable.
a. Data exclude U.S. Hispanics who do not report a specific country of origin. Out of 41,870,703 Hispanics in the United States, 3,219,306 (about 8 percent of the total) could not be classified by country of origin. These data are based on a table from the Census Bureau that uses the full American Community Survey, not the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample.
b. The population count of Puerto Ricans from the American Community Survey includes only those interviewed in the United States, excluding Puerto Rico.

Characteristics of U.S. Hispanics

This section presents a snapshot of the demographic, economic, and other characteristics of the Hispanic population in the U.S. today and compares them with those of the overall U.S. population (Table 2).

Table 2. Characteristics of U.S. Hispanics and the total U.S. population, 2005
Characteristic All U.S. Hispanics Total U.S. population
(including Hispanics)
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Demographic characteristics
Total 41,926,302 100.0 288,398,819 100.0
Sex
Male 21,507,031 51.3 141,363,811 49.0
Female 20,419,271 48.7 147,035,008 51.0
Age
Under 15 12,356,973 29.5 60,614,922 21.0
15–24 6,897,734 16.5 38,853,331 13.5
25–61 19,938,489 47.6 146,637,237 50.8
62–74 1,831,864 4.4 25,852,442 9.0
75–84 716,964 1.7 12,479,794 4.3
85 or older 184,278 0.4 3,961,093 1.4
Marital status
Married 14,928,199 35.6 121,593,813 42.2
Widowed 987,864 2.4 13,727,274 4.8
Divorced 2,235,707 5.3 23,277,197 8.1
Separated 1,152,994 2.8 5,058,319 1.8
Never married or younger than age 15 22,621,538 54.0 124,742,216 43.3
Educational attainment of persons aged 25 or older a
Total 22,671,595 100.0 188,930,566 100.0
No high school diploma 9,188,480 40.5 29,780,738 15.8
High school graduate only 6,121,196 27.0 55,907,093 29.6
Some college but no degree 3,420,196 15.1 37,922,764 20.1
Associate's degree 1,157,135 5.1 13,942,268 7.4
Bachelor's degree or higher 2,784,588 12.3 51,377,703 27.2
Earnings of persons aged 16 or older b
Total 20,710,142 100.0 156,958,710 100.0
$1–16,628 8,838,310 42.7 51,538,084 32.8
$16,629–36,952 7,667,731 37.0 49,617,246 31.6
$36,953–59,124 2,669,334 12.9 29,485,724 18.8
$59,125–89,999 1,041,185 5.0 15,616,269 9.9
$90,000 or more 493,582 2.4 10,701,387 6.8
Poverty among persons aged 15 or older c
Total 41,650,181 100.0 287,268,896 100.0
Below 100% 9,402,750 22.6 38,413,266 13.4
100% to 124% 3,328,123 8.0 12,732,863 4.4
125% to 149% 3,087,906 7.4 12,668,023 4.4
150% or above 25,831,402 62.0 223,454,744 77.8
Disability status of persons aged 5 or older d
Total 37,364,167 100.0 268,086,256 100.0
With disability 4,063,347 10.9 39,708,398 14.8
Without disability 33,300,820 89.1 228,377,858 85.2
Citizenship and nativity
Total 41,926,302 100.0 288,398,819 100.0
U.S. citizenship
U.S. citizen 29,779,953 71.0 267,562,787 92.8
Not U.S. citizen 12,146,349 29.0 20,836,032 7.2
Nativity
U.S.-born e 25,085,528 59.8 252,629,216 87.6
Not U.S.-born 16,840,774 40.2 35,769,603 12.4
Language of persons aged 5 or older f
Total 37,364,167 100.0 268,086,256 100.0
Ability to speak English
English speaker g 28,202,438 75.5 255,282,118 95.2
Non-English speaker 9,161,729 24.5 12,804,138 4.8
Language spoken at home
Only English 8,080,214 21.6 216,078,959 80.6
Other language h 29,283,953 78.4 52,007,297 19.4
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
NOTE: . . . = not applicable.
a. Educational attainment is restricted by author to persons aged 25 or older.
b. Data exclude persons younger than age 16, who are not asked their earnings by the Census Bureau, and persons with zero or negative earnings.
The 2005 national average wage was $36,952.54. Persons earning 45 percent of the average wage ($16,629) are low earners, and those earning 160 percent of the average wage ($59,125) are high earners. These figures and the maximum taxable earnings under Social Security ($90,000 in 2005) were used to define the earnings' cutoffs.
See Table 3 for additional earnings data.
c. The Census Bureau does not measure poverty status for unrelated individuals younger than age 15.
d. The Census Bureau does not measure disability status for persons younger than age 5.
e. U.S.-born includes persons born in the United States, those born abroad to U.S. parents, and those born in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands according to the Census Bureau.
f. The Census Bureau does not measure ability to speak English for persons younger than age 5.
g. Defined here as a person who speaks only English at home or who speaks English well or very well in addition to speaking another language at home.
h. The person speaks another language in addition to or in place of English.

Age and Marital Status. Hispanics tend to be younger than the general U.S. population. Almost 30 percent of Hispanics were under age 15 in 2005, compared with about 21 percent of the total population (Chart 3). Forty-six percent of Hispanics were under age 25, compared with 35 percent of the total population. In 2005, the median age for Hispanics was 27.2 years, compared with 36.4 years for the total population.10 In addition, about one-half of non-Hispanic whites were older than 40.11 Almost 15 percent of the total population was aged 62 or older, compared with only 6.5 percent of the Hispanic population. In part because Hispanics tend to be younger, they are less likely to be married—almost 36 percent of Hispanics were married, compared with more than 42 percent of the total population.

Chart 3.
Characteristics of U.S. Hispanics and the total U.S. population, 2005
Age
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Education
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 2 in this article.

Education. Another difference between Hispanics and the general population is their lower level of educational attainment. About 41 percent of Hispanics aged 25 or older did not have a high school diploma in 2005, compared with 16 percent of the total population. In addition, only about 12 percent of Hispanics had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 27 percent of the overall population.

Economic Status. For illustrative purposes, the Office of the Chief Actuary at the Social Security Administration defines low, medium, and high earners. For 2005, a steady low earner was defined as someone earning less than $16,629 annually. The figures for medium and high earners were $36,953 and $59,125.12 These figures and the maximum taxable earnings under Social Security ($90,000 in 2005) were used to define some of the earnings cutoffs in Table 2. Approximately 43 percent of Hispanics aged 16 or older were steady low earners—earning less than $16,629 annually—compared with 33 percent of the total population (Table 2).

As shown in Table 3, average, or mean, annual earnings were also lower for Hispanics (about $25,836) than for the overall population ($37,070).13 Only in the youngest group—those aged 16–24—were annual mean earnings higher for Hispanics than for the total U.S. population. For Hispanics aged 16 or older with positive earnings, the lowest quartile earned up to $10,300, and the highest quartile earned more than $33,000. For the total population, the lowest quartile earned up to $12,000, and the highest quartile earned more than $47,000. Lower levels of education and a younger population may offer partial explanations of the relatively low earnings among Hispanics.

Table 3. Economic status of U.S. Hispanics and the total U.S. population, 2005
All U.S. Hispanics Total U.S. population
Earnings a (dollars)
Total 25,836 37,070
Annual mean earnings, by age
16–24 12,235 11,504
25–34 25,160 32,756
35–44 31,164 44,442
45–54 32,980 47,673
55–64 31,143 45,749
65 or older 23,065 29,247
Monthly mean earnings 2,153 3,089
Distribution, by earnings quartile b
First 10,300 12,000
Second 20,000 26,900
Third 33,000 47,000
Percentage below 100% of poverty level, by age
Under 16 30.0 19.0
16–24 24.5 20.6
25–34 20.2 13.3
35–44 17.5 10.3
45–54 14.1 8.4
55–64 15.9 8.7
65 or older 20.3 9.9
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
a. Data exclude persons younger than 16, who are not asked their earnings by the Census Bureau, and persons with zero or negative earnings.
b. Computation of earnings quartiles excludes persons with zero or negative earnings.

Individual earnings are an important determinant of eventual retirement income because Social Security benefits, pensions, and savings are all linked to earnings, but current economic status can be more directly assessed using the poverty standard. An individual is considered poor if the family's total income is less than the appropriate poverty threshold for the family. Hispanics of all ages were 1.7 times as likely as the total population (22.6 percent versus 13.4 percent) to be living below the federal poverty level, defined as below 100 percent of the poverty level (Chart 4). Similar results were found when using measures of "near" poverty (125 percent but below 150 percent of poverty).

Chart 4.
Poverty among U.S. Hispanics and the total U.S. population, 2005
Poverty status
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Percentage below 100 percent of poverty, by age
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 2 in this article.
NOTE: The Census Bureau does not measure poverty status for unrelated individuals younger than age 15.

Disability Status. According to the ACS definition of disability, Hispanics were less likely to be disabled than were individuals in the total population (10.9 percent compared to 14.8 percent), which may reflect the fact that Hispanics tend to be younger than the overall population.14

Citizenship, Nativity, and Language. The large majority of Hispanics residing in the United States (71.0 percent) are U.S. citizens.15 A majority (59.8 percent) are native born. More than three in four Hispanics are able to speak English, although close to one in five speak only English at home. Not surprisingly, these figures are different than those for the overall population, where more than four in five speak only English at home.

Hispanics Receiving Social Security and SSI

This analysis also compared selected characteristics of Hispanics receiving Social Security or SSI and compared them with other segments of the U.S. population: all U.S. Hispanics, Hispanic nonbeneficiaries, all beneficiaries, and all SSI recipients. The comparisons focus on persons aged 15 or older.16

Hispanic Beneficiaries and All Hispanics

According to the ACS, about 8 percent of all Hispanics aged 15 or older were beneficiaries of Social Security (Table 4). Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries were older relative to the overall Hispanic population (Chart 5) and more likely to be female and widowed. The incidence of poverty among the overall Hispanic population was similar to that of the subset receiving Social Security (about 20 percent). However, there are some important differences in terms of origin or descent. The beneficiary population has a larger percentage of Hispanics in the overall Caribbean group (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Dominican Republic) and in the Spanish-descent group and smaller percentages of persons of Mexican, Central American, and South American origin.

Table 4. Characteristics of Hispanics receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income and all U.S. Hispanics, 2005 a
Characteristic Hispanic Social Security
beneficiaries
Hispanic Supplemental
Security Income recipients
All U.S. Hispanics
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Demographic characteristics of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 657,247 100.0 29,569,329 100.0
Sex
Male 1,102,569 44.4 250,208 38.1 15,168,030 51.3
Female 1,382,606 55.6 407,039 61.9 14,401,299 48.7
Age
15–24 77,829 3.1 39,924 6.1 6,897,734 23.3
25–61 457,940 18.4 333,552 50.7 19,938,489 67.4
62–74 1,212,935 48.8 153,303 23.3 1,831,864 6.2
75–84 592,177 23.8 92,216 14.0 716,964 2.4
85 or older 144,294 5.8 38,252 5.8 184,278 0.6
Marital status
Married 1,282,832 51.6 185,376 28.2 14,928,199 50.5
Widowed 561,925 22.6 118,658 18.1 987,864 3.3
Divorced 286,905 11.5 112,369 17.1 2,235,707 7.6
Separated 95,484 3.8 53,469 8.1 1,152,994 3.9
Never married or younger than age 15 258,029 10.4 187,375 28.5 10,264,565 34.7
Educational attainment of persons aged 25 or older b
Total 2,407,346 100.0 617,323 100.0 22,671,595 100.0
No high school diploma 1,361,279 56.5 411,783 66.7 9,188,480 40.5
High school graduate only 554,944 23.1 124,573 20.2 6,121,196 27.0
Some college but no degree 254,212 10.6 49,398 8.0 3,420,196 15.1
Associate's degree 64,063 2.7 13,561 2.2 1,157,135 5.1
Bachelor's degree or higher 172,848 7.2 18,008 2.9 2,784,588 12.3
Poverty among persons aged 15 or older c
Total 2,485,175 100.0 657,247 100.0 29,569,329 100.0
Below 100% 504,220 20.3 283,992 43.2 5,766,509 19.5
100% to 124% 240,839 9.7 81,716 12.4 2,191,804 7.4
125% to 149% 205,188 8.3 51,049 7.8 2,082,998 7.0
150% or above 1,534,928 61.8 240,490 36.6 19,528,018 66.0
Disability status of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 657,247 100.0 29,569,329 100.0
With disability 1,176,828 47.4 611,811 93.1 3,637,695 12.3
Without disability 1,308,347 52.6 45,436 6.9 25,931,634 87.7
Citizenship and nativity of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 657,247 100.0 29,569,329 100.0
U.S. citizenship
U.S. citizen 2,155,535 86.7 546,446 83.1 18,488,928 62.5
Not U.S. citizen 329,640 13.3 110,801 16.9 11,080,401 37.5
Nativity
U.S.-born d 1,420,806 57.2 401,275 61.1 13,905,099 47.0
Not U.S.-born 1,064,369 42.8 255,972 38.9 15,664,230 53.0
Language of persons aged 15 or older
Ability to speak English e
English speaker 1,676,925 67.5 387,454 59.0 20,964,108 70.9
Non-English speaker 808,250 32.5 269,793 41.0 8,605,221 29.1
Language spoken at home f
Only English 424,140 17.1 119,714 18.2 5,627,634 19.0
Other 2,061,035 82.9 537,533 81.8 23,941,695 81.0
Origin of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 657,247 100.0 29,569,329 100.0
Mexican 1,296,088 52.2 304,271 46.3 18,288,427 61.8
Puerto Rican 353,615 14.2 158,268 24.1 2,720,218 9.2
Cuban 258,233 10.4 50,086 7.6 1,204,868 4.1
Dominican 58,189 2.3 35,339 5.4 823,877 2.8
Central American 94,992 3.8 26,629 4.1 2,372,395 8.0
South American 116,302 4.7 22,533 3.4 1,767,620 6.0
Spaniard 42,163 1.7 6,115 0.9 292,622 1.0
Other 265,593 10.7 54,006 8.2 2,099,302 7.1
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
a. The 2005 ACS PUMS do not provide beneficiary and recipient information for persons under age 15.
b. Educational attainment is restricted by author to persons aged 25 or older.
c. The Census Bureau does not measure poverty status for unrelated individuals younger than age 15.
d. U.S.-born includes persons born in the United States, those born abroad to U.S. parents, and those born in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands according to the Census Bureau.
e. Defined here as a person who speaks only English at home or who speaks English well or very well in addition to speaking another language at home.
f. The person speaks another language in addition to or in place of English.
Chart 5.
Characteristics of U.S. Hispanics and those receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, 2005
Age
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Origin
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Education
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Poverty status
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 4 in this article.

The vast majority of Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries (about 87 percent) were U.S. citizens. In addition, a sizable majority (about 67 percent) spoke English, and more than half (57 percent) were born in the United States.

About 2 percent of all Hispanics aged 15 or older received SSI. Compared with all Hispanics and with Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries, SSI recipients had less education and were much more likely to have low income (relative to the poverty standard). The results on poverty are not surprising, because SSI is designed to assist persons with limited income and resources. SSI recipients were also far more likely to report a disability (93.1 percent) than were all Hispanics (12.3 percent).17 A majority of SSI recipients of Hispanic origin were U.S. citizens (83.1 percent), were able to speak English (59.0 percent), and were born in the United States (61.1 percent). The relatively high level of U.S. citizenship stems from SSI restrictions on citizenship and qualified alien status.

Hispanic Beneficiaries and Nonbeneficiaries

The economic status of Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries aged 15 or older, by origin, is shown in Table 5 and compared with that of Hispanic nonbeneficiaries. For the largest group of Hispanics—those of Mexican descent—beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries had similar levels of income (relative to the poverty threshold). Among persons of Mexican descent, the percentage below poverty was slightly lower for beneficiaries than for nonbeneficiaries (18.4 percent versus 20.8 percent), and the percentage with income above 150 percent of poverty for both groups was about 63 percent.

Table 5. Poverty among Hispanic beneficiaries of Social Security and Hispanic nonbeneficiaries aged 15 or older, by region and country of origin, 2005
Region and
country of origin
All Below 100%
of poverty
100% to 124% 125% to 149% 150% or above
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Beneficiaries
Total 2,485,175 100.0 504,220 20.3 240,839 9.7 205,188 8.3 1,534,928 61.8
Mexican 1,296,088 100.0 237,959 18.4 127,845 9.9 113,056 8.7 817,228 63.1
Caribbean
Puerto Rican 353,615 100.0 100,787 28.5 31,379 8.9 26,278 7.4 195,171 55.2
Cuban 258,233 100.0 57,367 22.2 29,816 11.5 21,353 8.3 149,697 58.0
Dominican 58,189 100.0 21,720 37.3 5,622 9.7 5,257 9.0 25,590 44.0
Central American
Salvadoran 26,003 100.0 4,082 15.7 2,246 8.6 2,701 10.4 16,974 65.3
Guatemalan a a a a a a a a a a
Other 68,989 100.0 12,965 18.8 7,330 10.6 3,067 4.4 45,627 66.1
South American
Colombian 40,197 100.0 7,202 17.9 3,076 7.7 3,225 8.0 26,694 66.4
Ecuadorian 21,426 100.0 3,418 16.0 791 3.7 1,965 9.2 15,252 71.2
Peruvian a a a a a a a a a a
Other 54,679 100.0 8,704 15.9 4,001 7.3 3,687 6.7 38,287 70.0
European
Spaniard 42,163 100.0 4,726 11.2 4,743 11.2 1,914 4.5 30,780 73.0
Other Hispanic 265,593 100.0 45,290 17.1 23,990 9.0 22,685 8.5 173,628 65.4
Nonbeneficiaries
Total 27,084,154 100.0 5,262,289 19.4 1,950,965 7.2 1,877,810 6.9 17,993,090 66.4
Mexican 16,992,339 100.0 3,538,930 20.8 1,352,760 8.0 1,321,040 7.8 10,779,609 63.4
Caribbean
Puerto Rican 2,366,603 100.0 510,244 21.6 125,366 5.3 98,272 4.2 1,632,721 69.0
Cuban 946,635 100.0 133,084 14.1 49,828 5.3 35,256 3.7 728,467 77.0
Dominican 765,688 100.0 180,612 23.6 55,692 7.3 50,796 6.6 478,588 62.5
Central American
Salvadoran 913,152 100.0 135,968 14.9 67,122 7.4 77,061 8.4 633,001 69.3
Guatemalan 569,385 100.0 112,321 19.7 55,927 9.8 43,515 7.6 357,622 62.8
Other 794,866 100.0 130,391 16.4 54,037 6.8 54,412 6.8 556,026 70.0
South American
Colombian 528,932 100.0 56,945 10.8 26,404 5.0 25,666 4.9 419,917 79.4
Ecuadorian 318,343 100.0 38,382 12.1 18,565 5.8 19,215 6.0 242,181 76.1
Peruvian 315,042 100.0 29,882 9.5 17,990 5.7 24,566 7.8 242,604 77.0
Other 489,001 100.0 60,583 12.4 20,795 4.3 18,786 3.8 388,837 79.5
European
Spaniard 250,459 100.0 28,340 11.3 9,869 3.9 11,408 4.6 200,842 80.2
Other Hispanic 1,833,709 100.0 306,607 16.7 96,610 5.3 97,817 5.3 1,332,675 72.7
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
a. Numbers too few to list.

Some groups, however, had noticeable differences between beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries. For example, among Hispanics of Cuban origin, nonbeneficiaries had relatively high economic status: the percentage with income below 150 percent of poverty (about 23 percent) was roughly half the percentage for beneficiaries of the same origin (about 42 percent). The general pattern observed with Hispanics of Cuban descent was also observed, but to a lesser extent, among those of Puerto Rican descent: 31 percent of nonbeneficiaries had income below 150 percent of the poverty level, compared with about 45 percent of beneficiaries.

Persons of Dominican origin, whether Social Security beneficiaries or nonbeneficiaries, represent the largest proportion of Hispanics living below the federal poverty level. Among beneficiaries, more than one in three were poor, and a majority (56.0 percent) had income below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. Nonbeneficiaries were somewhat better off but still had a relatively high poverty rate (23.6 percent).

Individuals who trace their origin to Spain, regardless of benefit status, were among the most likely to have income above 150 percent of the federal poverty level. About 73 percent of beneficiaries and 80 percent of nonbeneficiaries of Spanish origin had income above this threshold.

The incidence of poverty in the Hispanic community varies by ethnic origin, as discussed above, but there is no striking pattern (Chart 6). Among the largest group of Hispanics (those of Mexican descent), beneficiaries had a lower incidence of poverty than nonbeneficiaries. For some other groups, the estimated percentages were close. This result suggests that Social Security benefit receipt is not uniformly associated with declines in economic status.

Chart 6.
Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries and nonbeneficiaries below 100 percent of the poverty level, by region and country of origin, 2005
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 5 in this article.

Hispanic Social Security Beneficiaries and All Beneficiaries

Hispanics aged 15 or older have lower average Social Security benefits than do their counterparts among all beneficiaries (Table 6). Their mean annual Social Security benefit in 2005 was about $8,056, compared with about $9,900 for all beneficiaries. Twenty-five percent of Hispanic beneficiaries received up to $4,900 in annual benefits. By comparison, for the overall beneficiary population, the 25th percentile cutoff occurred at $6,100.

Table 6. Social Security benefits of Hispanic beneficiaries and all beneficiaries, 2005 (in dollars)
Benefit amount Hispanic beneficiaries All beneficiaries
Mean Social Security benefit
Annual 8,056 9,879
Monthly 671 823
Distribution, by benefit quartile
First 4,900 6,100
Second 7,200 9,600
Third 10,800 13,000
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.

Social Security benefits are based on earnings in covered employment. As noted in Table 2, Hispanics had lower relative earnings than the overall U.S. population, which will translate into lower average benefits. Note, however, that Social Security's benefit formula provides higher replacement rates (benefits as a percentage of preretirement earnings) for people with low lifetime earnings. This feature helps persons who consistently earn low wages or who have partial careers under the Social Security program and have not accrued the minimum of 40 quarters of coverage under Social Security to be eligible for retirement benefits. Thus, although benefits received by Hispanics tend to be lower than those for the overall population, they probably replace a higher percentage of their preretirement earnings.

Hispanic beneficiaries were nearly twice as likely as all beneficiaries to be living below the federal poverty level—20.3 percent versus 10.7 percent (see Chart 7 and Table 7, which presents selected characteristics of Hispanic beneficiaries and all beneficiaries). They were also 1.8 times as likely as the overall Social Security population to have income below 125 percent of the poverty level and 1.6 times as likely to have income below 150 percent of the poverty level. Recall that the relatively low economic status of Hispanics was also apparent among persons of working age (see Table 2). In other words, Hispanics do not necessarily suffer sharp drops in well-being at retirement; rather, their well-being in retirement may reflect factors that also exist during their working years.

Chart 7.
Poverty status and education of Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries and all beneficiaries, 2005
Poverty status
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Education
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 7 in this article.
Table 7. Characteristics of Hispanic beneficiaries of Social Security and all beneficiaries, 2005 a
Characteristic Hispanic beneficiaries All beneficiaries
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Demographic characteristics of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
Sex
Male 1,102,569 44.4 17,610,175 43.8
Female 1,382,606 55.6 22,552,498 56.2
Age
15–24 77,829 3.1 662,934 1.7
25–61 457,940 18.4 4,719,388 11.8
62–74 1,212,935 48.8 19,689,798 49.0
75–84 592,177 23.8 11,452,945 28.5
85 or older 144,294 5.8 3,637,608 9.1
Marital status
Married 1,282,832 51.6 22,011,219 54.8
Widowed 561,925 22.6 10,403,905 25.9
Divorced 286,905 11.5 4,184,446 10.4
Separated 95,484 3.8 592,560 1.5
Never married or younger than age 15 258,029 10.4 2,970,543 7.4
Educational attainment of persons aged 25 or older b
Total 2,407,346 100.0 39,499,739 100.0
No high school diploma 1,361,279 56.5 10,372,664 26.3
High school graduate only 554,944 23.1 13,916,488 35.2
Some college but no degree 254,212 10.6 6,906,004 17.5
Associate's degree 64,063 2.7 1,565,198 4.0
Bachelor's degree or higher 172,848 7.2 6,739,385 17.1
Poverty among persons aged 15 or older c
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
Below 100% 504,220 20.3 4,285,977 10.7
100% to 124% 240,839 9.7 2,509,942 6.2
125% to 149% 205,188 8.3 2,561,446 6.4
150% or above 1,534,928 61.8 30,805,308 76.7
Disability status of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
With disability 1,176,828 47.4 17,499,870 43.6
Without disability 1,308,347 52.6 22,662,803 56.4
Citizenship and nativity of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
U.S. citizenship
U.S. citizen 2,155,535 86.7 39,400,143 98.1
Not U.S. citizen 329,640 13.3 762,530 1.9
Nativity
U.S.-born d 1,420,806 57.2 36,644,520 91.2
Not U.S.-born 1,064,369 42.8 3,518,153 8.8
Language of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
Ability to speak English e
English speaker 1,676,925 67.5 38,782,809 96.6
Non-English speaker 808,250 32.5 1,379,864 3.4
Language spoken at home
Only English 424,140 17.1 35,412,572 88.2
Other language f 2,061,035 82.9 4,750,101 11.8
Race of persons aged 15 or older
Total 2,485,175 100.0 40,162,673 100.0
White alone 1,591,736 64.0 34,103,524 84.9
Black or African American alone 40,630 1.6 3,757,786 9.4
American Indian or Alaska native 21,285 0.9 235,432 0.6
Asian or Pacific Islander 8,818 0.4 906,278 2.3
Some other race alone 754,727 30.4 791,137 2.0
Two or more major race groups 67,979 2.7 368,516 0.9
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
a. The 2005 ACS PUMS does not provide beneficiary and recipient information for persons under age 15.
b. Educational attainment is restricted by author to persons aged 25 or older.
c. The Census Bureau does not measure poverty status for unrelated individuals younger than age 15.
d. U.S.-born includes persons born in the United States, those born abroad to U.S. parents, and those born in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands according to the Census Bureau.
e. Defined here as a person who speaks only English at home or who speaks English well or very well in addition to speaking another language at home.
f. The person speaks another language in addition to or in place of English.

Educational attainment is a major determinant of labor market earnings and, ultimately, retirement income. It is therefore useful to highlight the data on educational attainment from Table 7. Nearly three-fifths (56.5 percent) of Hispanic beneficiaries never completed high school, compared with slightly more than one-fourth (26.3 percent) of beneficiaries overall. Hispanic beneficiaries were less than half as likely as the overall group to have completed a bachelor's degree (7.2 percent versus 17.1 percent).

Hispanic beneficiaries tend to be younger than other beneficiaries. Three percent of Hispanic beneficiaries are in the 15–24  age range compared with 1.7 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries. Among those aged 62 or older, Hispanics had about 8 percentage points fewer older beneficiaries—78.4 percent compared with 86.6 percent.

With regard to race, about 85 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries were white alone, compared with 64.0 percent of Hispanic beneficiaries. The second largest racial group of Social Security beneficiaries (9.4 percent) was black alone. Among Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries, the second largest group was composed of those of "Some other race alone" (30.4 percent).18

Hispanic SSI Recipients and All Recipients

The study also looked at the same selected demographics of Hispanic SSI recipients and compared them with those of all SSI recipients aged 15 or older (Table 8). The two populations were similar with regard to some key variables, namely, sex, age distributions, marital status, and poverty status. For example, regardless of Hispanic status, SSI recipients had similar high rates of poverty—above 40 percent (Chart 8). The two populations differ, however, in terms of education. About 67 percent of Hispanic beneficiaries had no high school diploma, compared with 45 percent of the general SSI population. Finally, annual payments received by Hispanics were about 8 percent lower than those received by the overall SSI population—$5,944 versus $6,420 (Table 9).

Table 8. Characteristics of Hispanic recipients of Supplemental Security Income and all recipients, 2005 a
Characteristic Hispanic recipients All recipients
Number As a
percentage
of total
Number As a
percentage
of total
Demographic characteristics of persons aged 15 or older
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
Sex
Male 250,208 38.1 2,044,069 40.6
Female 407,039 61.9 2,995,113 59.4
Age
15–24 39,924 6.1 331,208 6.6
25–61 333,552 50.7 2,972,993 59.0
62–74 153,303 23.3 950,828 18.9
75–84 92,216 14.0 551,292 10.9
85 or older 38,252 5.8 232,861 4.6
Marital status
Married 185,376 28.2 1,363,911 27.1
Widowed 118,658 18.1 791,912 15.7
Divorced 112,369 17.1 1,023,119 20.3
Separated 53,469 8.1 304,374 6.0
Never married 187,375 28.5 1,555,866 30.9
Educational attainment of persons aged 25 or older b
Total 617,323 100.0 4,707,974 100.0
No high school diploma 411,783 66.7 2,138,290 45.4
High school graduate only 124,573 20.2 1,446,977 30.7
Some college but no degree 49,398 8.0 640,514 13.6
Associate's degree 13,561 2.2 173,697 3.7
Bachelor's degree or higher 18,008 2.9 308,496 6.6
Poverty among persons aged 15 or older c
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
Below 100% 283,992 43.2 2,052,513 40.7
100% to 124% 81,716 12.4 535,052 10.6
125% to 149% 51,049 7.8 388,064 7.7
150% or above 240,490 36.6 2,063,553 41.0
Disability status of persons aged 15 or older
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
With disability 611,811 93.1 4,718,101 93.6
Without disability 45,436 6.9 321,081 6.4
Citizenship and nativity of persons aged 15 or older
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
U.S. citizenship
U.S. citizen 546,446 83.1 4,810,331 95.5
Not U.S. citizen 110,801 16.9 228,851 4.5
Nativity
U.S.-born d 401,275 61.1 4,326,677 85.9
Not U.S. -born 255,972 38.9 712,505 14.1
Language of persons aged 15 or older
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
Ability to speak English e
English speaker 387,454 59.0 4,482,766 89.0
Non-English speaker 269,793 41.0 556,416 11.0
Language spoken at home
Only English 119,714 18.2 3,987,513 79.1
Other language f 537,533 81.8 1,051,669 20.9
Race of persons aged 15 or older
Total 657,247 100.0 5,039,182 100.0
White alone 344,955 52.5 3,231,517 64.1
Black or African American alone 13,460 2.0 1,125,967 22.3
American Indian or Alaska native 9,084 1.4 77,774 1.5
Asian or Pacific Islander 2,847 0.4 228,476 4.5
Some other race alone 264,856 40.3 275,541 5.5
Two or more major race groups 22,045 3.4 99,907 2.0
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.
a. The 2005 ACS PUMS does not provide beneficiary and recipient information for persons under age 15.
b. Educational attainment is restricted by author to persons aged 25 or older.
c. The Census Bureau does not measure poverty status for unrelated individuals younger than age 15.
d. U.S.-born includes persons born in the United States, those born abroad to U.S. parents, and those born in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands according to the Census Bureau.
e. Defined here as a person who speaks only English at home or who speaks English well or very well in addition to speaking another language at home.
f. The person speaks another language in addition to or in place of English.
Chart 8.
Poverty status and education of Hispanic Supplemental Security Income recipients and all recipients aged 15 or older, 2005
Poverty status
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Education
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample. See also Table 8 in this article.
Table 9. Supplemental Security Income payments of Hispanic recipients and all recipients, 2005 (in dollars)
Hispanic recipients All recipients
Mean SSI payment
Annual 5,944 6,420
Monthly 495 535
Distribution, by payment quartile
First 3,600 4,000
Second 6,000 6,400
Third 7,200 7,500
SOURCE: 2005 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample.

Policy Implications and Future Research

The demographic and economic differences among the Hispanic population underscore the importance of including more detailed and precise information about Hispanics in any analysis of the Social Security program, including analyses involving the financial status of the program and the effects of various policy options.

This article documents not only the demographic and economic characteristics of the Hispanic population in the United States but also similar characteristics of the growing and changing subgroups of Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients compared with their general populations. It is important, therefore, for policymakers to consider whether the program's structure will provide adequate benefits to future beneficiary populations and to understand factors that influence economic well-being among Hispanics. For future study, it would be interesting to repeat these analyses for subgroups of the Hispanic population (such as the foreign-born population).

News reports and even scholarly studies tend to lump Hispanics into one group. Yet this article reveals a remarkable diversity within the Hispanic community, and policymakers may therefore wish to pay special attention to certain subgroups within the Hispanic community. For example, the incidence of poverty among Hispanic Social Security beneficiaries varies by ethnic origin. The findings suggest that country of origin is a strong predictor of economic well-being among U.S. Hispanics. Beneficiaries, as a rule, are not consistently worse (or better) off than nonbeneficiaries. This finding suggests that retirement (or, more specifically, Social Security benefit receipt) is not uniformly associated with declines in economic status. Quantifying the diversity across Hispanic groups may aid forecasts of the effects of various program policy options.

The analyses in this article shed some light on the relationship of U.S. Hispanics to Social Security. For instance, the relatively low earnings of Hispanics are of significance to a special aspect of the program: the Social Security benefit formula replaces a higher percentage of preretirement earnings for persons with lower lifetime earnings. Moreover, some Social Security reform proposals contain provisions that specifically target augmented benefits to low lifetime earners.

This article, however, contains a cautionary tale regarding retirement policy. The overall economic well-being of Hispanics during their working years and retirement is largely dependent on their success in the labor market, which in turn is strongly related to educational attainment. Thus, a focus only on retirement policy will not address the underlying issues associated with well-being among Hispanics.

Finally, over time the Social Security program will become increasingly important to Hispanics. As today's relatively young Hispanic population ages, more Hispanics will become eligible for the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits available under Social Security.

Notes

1. The 6 percent figure is derived from ACS tabulations in Table 7 of this article, and the 15 percent figure is based on unpublished tabulations from the MINT model (see Smith, Cashin, and Favreault [2005] for a description of MINT projection methods).

2. Population growth has varied by Hispanic group. For example, the population of Mexican descent grew by 54.4 percent between 1980 and 1990, compared with 35.4 percent and 30.0 percent for those of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent. Also, the 1980s witnessed a substantial increase in immigrants from Central America (Census Bureau 1993).

3. Data from the public-use files of the March 2001–2005 Income Supplement to the Current Population Survey indicate that the percentage of Social Security beneficiaries aged 15 or older who are Hispanic has been growing in recent years—from 5.5 percent in 2000 to 6.1 percent in 2004 (Social Security Administration 2001, 2005, Table 3.C8). Data from the same source also indicate a growing percentage of Hispanic SSI recipients.

4. See http://www.census.gov/acs/www/SBasics/index.htm for basic information about the survey, including the questionnaire and data collection procedures. Refer to http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/acs_cpspovcompreport.pdf for more detail about how the ACS survey differs from other government surveys, such as the Current Population Survey.

5. The PUMS was released September 11, 2006, with corrected replicate weights for statistical testing. The PUMS data are a subset of the full ACS sample (Census 2006c).

6. Matched administrative records can be used to improve information from the survey. Research indicates that some survey respondents are confused about sources of income (for example, some respondents confuse SSI income with Social Security income and vice versa). See Sears and Rupp (2003) for a fuller discussion of this and other issues related to the accuracy of survey data.

7. The population counts of Puerto Ricans in the tables in this article include only persons interviewed in the United States as part of the American Community Survey. This article excludes information on residents of Puerto Rico that is collected as part of the Puerto Rico Community Survey. That survey, which began in 2005, may be used in future work on Hispanics by SSA researchers.

8. Downs (2003) notes that Hispanic women had the highest fertility rate in 2002 among all race and origin groups.

9. The data reported here and in Table 1 illustrate patterns of origin, but they do not measure immigration status. For example, a person who reports Mexican descent may be an immigrant or a person born in the United States. Also note that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

10. Statistics on median age from the 2005 ACS are available at the American FactFinder site maintained by the Census Bureau (http://factfinder.census.gov). See Tables B01002 Median Age by Sex (Total Population) and B01002I Median Age by Sex (Hispanic or Latino).

11. See Table B01002H, Median Age by Sex (White Alone, not Hispanic or Latino) at http://factfinder.census.gov.

12. The dollar values for steady low, medium, and high earners in a given year are determined by applying factors (0.45, 1.0, and 1.6) to the year's average wage (computed for SSA program purposes). For 2005, that average wage was $36,952.94, which is close to the average wage tabulated in the ACS ($37,069.81).

13. Because the overall populations in Table 2 encompass a broad age range, some statistics (earnings and poverty) are also presented for narrower age ranges.

14. The ACS classifies individuals as disabled on the basis of whether they report sensory, physical, mental, self-care, go-outside-home, or work disabilities. Persons aged 16–64 are classified as disabled if they report at least one of these six types of disability. The go-outside-home and work disabilities questions are not used to assess persons aged 65 or older, and the questions about go-outside-home disability are not used to assess persons aged 5–15.

15. In the ACS, respondents are considered U.S. citizens if they indicated "they were born in the United States, Puerto Rico, a U.S. Island Area (such as Guam), or abroad of American (U.S. citizen) parent or parents" or indicated "they were U.S. citizens through naturalization" (Census Bureau 2006a, 31).

16. The 2005 ACS PUMS does not provide beneficiary and recipient information for persons under age 15. ACS data also do not allow for detailed analysis by beneficiary or recipient type. In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security provides disability, spouse, survivor, and child benefits. SSI provides payments to eligible blind, disabled, and aged persons.

17. The ACS definition of disability is not intended to match the definition of disability used in the Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance programs. Rather, its use in this article is to simply illustrate the prevalence of self-reported health problems in various populations.

18. The ACS lists White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and "Some Other Race" race categories. Persons who select "Some Other Race" are asked to write in the race. The write in entries include general responses such as "interracial," as well as responses related to origin (for example, "Mexican").

References

Census Bureau. 1993. We, the American . . . Hispanics. Available at http://www.census.gov/apsd/wepeople/we-2r.pdf.

———. 2001. Total population in households and group quarters by sex and selected age groups, for the United States: 2000. Available at http://www.census.gov/population/cen2000/grpqtr/grpqtr01.pdf.

———. 2002. Demographic trends in the 20th century. Census 2000 Special Reports (November), Figure 1-1. Total Population: 1900-2000. Available in 2006 at http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/censr-4.pdf.

———. 2004. U.S. interim projections by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin. Available at http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/usinterimproj/.

———. 2006a. American Community Survey 2005 subject definitions. Available at http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/2005/usedata/Subject_Definitions.pdf.

———. 2006b. Annual estimates of the population by sex, race and Hispanic or Latino origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005. Available at http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2005-srh.html.

———. 2006c. PUMS accuracy of the data (2005). Available at http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/2005/AccuracyPUMS.pdf.

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