Work and Retirement of Older Black and Hispanic Adults

Published: 2022


Growing U.S. income inequality and the aging of Black and Hispanic populations point to greater risks of financial insecurity for older populations in coming years. Research on retirement determinants for Blacks and Hispanics is limited. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we analyze retirement determinants for Blacks and Hispanics. We link this data to the Working Trajectories file and restricted SSA individual-level files to determine Social Security wealth by race and ethnic origin. Using sociodemographic, health, and economic covariates, we construct a conditional probit model that identifies the probability a given individual will retire from the workforce over time. We find that Hispanics, Blacks, and non-Hispanic whites respond similarly to Social Security, private pension incentives, and other institutional (e.g., health insurance) influences on retirement. In their retirement decisions, non-Hispanic Blacks are not responsive to some sociodemographic characteristics (male, couple, and number of household members), but they are responsive to physical and mental health problems. Hispanics are less responsive than non-Hispanic whites to most sociodemographic characteristics (male, education, and couple) and mental health problems in their retirement decisions. Our findings for non-Hispanic whites are consistent with previous literature. Our research can inform programs and policies to improve the quality of life for older adults, especially those isolated by cultural, economic, educational, or other barriers.

Key Findings

    • Non-Hispanic Blacks continue to have relatively low levels of Social Security wealth.
    • Hispanics have seen their Social Security wealth increase as a result of a more redistributive formula for benefits and continued decreases in their mortality rates.
      Social Security, private pension, and other institutional influences affect Hispanics, non-Hispanic Blacks, and non-Hispanic whites similarly in their work and retirement decisions.
    • Physical and mental health problems affect non-Hispanic Blacks in their work and retirement decisions, but sociodemographic variables do not.
    • Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to respond to most sociodemographic and mental health influences on work and retirement decisions.
    • The overall results suggest that Hispanics and non-Hispanic Blacks may not be making optimal retirement decisions given their socioeconomic and health conditions. Raising financial literacy levels could help improve their work and retirement decision-making.


Aguila, Emma, and Zeewan Lee. 2022. “Work and Retirement of Older Black and Hispanic Adults.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2022-452.