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Age and Race/Ethnicity

Age. race/ethnicity, and economic inequality are  closely intertwined. Inequalities that exist later in lifeoriginate in individuals’ early participation in the labor force and arc amplified in late adulthood. For example. . older African Americans continue to feel the impact of segregated schools  nd overt patterns of job discrimination  that wer~ present during their early years.Although African Americans constitute only about 8.4 percent of the population age 65 and over, they account for 26 percent of the low-income older population. Among persons age 65 and over. 8.3 percent  of whites reported poverty-level incomes in 2002, asc ompared with 23.8 percent of African Americans and21 4 percent ofLatinos/as (Federal Interagency Forum  on Aging-Related Statistics. 2005). As you will recall from Chapter 8. the poverty line is determined by estimating how m ch a low-budget family must spend annually for groceries and then multiplying that amount
by three. Based on the assumption that persons in late adulthood eat less than YOllnger people. the poverty line is placed at a lower dO·11aramount ($9.367 for a
single person in 2005) for persons 65 and older than for people below that age ($10.160 in 2005). In other words, at age 64 a person with an income of $10.000 is considered to be below the poverty line (and thus entitled to assistance). but one year later. on the same  income. the person is no longer “poor:’ Although caloric demand does decrease for older people. their nutritionalneeds remain the same. and no data indicate that their food costs are less (Margolis, 1990). As previously noted. the primary reason for the lower income status of many older African Americans can be traced to a pattern of limited employment opportunities
and periods of unemployment throughout their lives, combir.ed with their concentration in  secondary-sector jobs. which pay lower wages, aresporadic. have few benefi IS. and were not covered by Social Security prior to the 1950s (Hooyman and Kiyak, 2002). Moreover. health problems may force  some African Americans out of the labor force earlierthan other workers due to a higher rate of chronic diseases such as hypertension. diabetes, and kidney failure (Hooyrnan and Kiyak, 2002). Similarly. older Latinas/os have higher rates of poverty than whites (Anglos) because of lack of educational and employment opportunities. Some older L atinos/as entered the country illegally and have hadlimite  opportunities for education and employment, leaving them with little or no Social Security or other
benefits in their old age. High rates of poverty Inonuolder Latinas/os are associated with poor health conditions, lack of regular care by a physician, and fewer trips to the hospital [or medical treatment of illness,  disease, or injury.  Older Native Americans are among the most disadvantagedof ,III categories. Older Native Americans are more likely to live in high-poverty. rural areas than are other minority older populations. Some studies have found that about 50 percent of all older Native  Americans live in poverty, having incomes that arebetween 40 and 60 percent less than those of older  hite Americans. In addition to experiencing educational  and employment discrimination similar to that of African Americans and Latinos/as, older NativeAmericans were also the objects of historical oppression and federal policies toward the native nations that exacerbated patterns of economic impoverishment. Consequently, some older Native Americans have the
worst living conditions and poorest health of all older people in this country, Research findings regarding the mental health of older Native Americans also indicate  a high rate of depression. alcoholism and other drug abuse, and suicide (see Chapter 18. “Health. Health Care, and Disability”).Among older Asian Americans. many who arrived in the United States prior to 1930 have fared less well
in their old age than those who were native-burn or were more recent arrivals::~s discussed in Chapter 10, many older Asian Americans from Japan and China received less education and experienced more economic depriv ation than did later cohorts of Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans. Today, many older Asian Americans remain in Chinatown. lapantown, or Koreatown, where others speak their language and provide goods and services that help them maintain
their culture. and where mutual-aid and benevolent societies and recreational clubs provide them with social contacts and delivery of services A< a result. many older Asian Americans who qualify tor various forms of entitlements. such as Slippier. c .11. Security Income, do not apply for it. Moreover, (l I ural values, including traditional healing practice, nay help explain why many Asian Americans. ;  Chinese Chinese American elders, do not use physical and mental health services that are available to them. For many years. studies in sociology and gerontology
primarily focused on the attributes and needs of older white Americans from middle- and low-income backgrounds. Overall, more research is needed on the
unique needs of older people from diverse racial and ethnic categories.

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