Boomers and the Great Recession: Struggling to Recover looks at how boomers fared during and shortly after the recent recession. It is based on the findings from online surveys of nearly 4,000 boomers aged 50 to 64 who were in the labor force—either working or looking for work—at some point since the start of the Great Recession up to the survey date in October 2010. A brief follow-up survey was conducted in August 2011.
The surveys show the substantial impact of the recession on Hispanic boomers.
• Hispanics were overrepresented among the unemployed. They were, for example, 8 percent of all boomers surveyed but 15 percent of the unemployed.
• Unemployed Hispanics cited health problems significantly more often than non-Hispanic whites as a reason for not working.
• All Hispanic boomers who experienced unemployment during the recession reported at least some degree of financial hardship.
• During the recession, about half of the boomers surveyed experienced a period when they had difficulty making ends meet. Non-Hispanic black boomers (70 percent) were much more likely to have difficulty making ends meet than non-Hispanic white boomers (47 percent), with Hispanics occupying the middle ground (61 percent).
The report confirms that boomers have indeed had a rough ride over the past several years. The recession and its aftermath have left many without jobs, having exhausted their savings, and with homes they can neither afford nor sell. Boomers are uncertain about what the future holds for them as they edge toward retirement. Majorities of even the steadily employed are concerned about being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living in retirement, having enough money to pay for adequate health care, or depleting all their savings. Nor do boomers expect to do as well as their parents or people of their parents’ generation in retirement.
To capture the intensity of worry about financial well-being, a boomer financial concern index was constructed. This index was based on boomers’ feelings about current and retirement financial well-being. Hispanics were more concerned than other boomers, as measured by mean or “average” concern score. They were also about 40 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to express a high degree of financial concern (34.4 percent vs. 24.3 percent). They were about 40 percent less likely to be among the least concerned (13.2 percent vs. 23.1 percent).
The report ends with a number of policy options that could address the employment and retirement income prospects of America’s boomers.
For a copy of the full report, Boomers and the Great Recession: Struggling to Recover, AARP Public Policy Institute, 2012, go to www.aarp.org/recessionsurvey.