Originating in 1968 and enacted into law in 1988, National Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate Hispanic Americans’ history and contributions and the influence they have had on American culture and society and to consider the future of the Latino community.
Throughout modern history, Hispanic labor leaders like Cesar Chavez and Santiago Iglesias Pantin have contributed vastly to the labor movement by organizing workers and advocating for better pay and working conditions. Today, Americans with ancestry from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America continue to have a valuable impact on the workforce. The Hispanic population in the United States is a fast-growing community, expanding by approximately 12 million people between 2010 and 2020. During that decade, they accounted for 51% of the country’s total population growth. Hispanics also comprise 18% of the U.S. workforce, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that number will grow to over 21% by 2030. In addition, 16% of the female workforce is Latina, and that number is also increasing. Despite their significant numbers, studies show that Latino Americans only make 73 cents for each dollar paid to White American workers, and Latino household wealth is one-fifth that of White households.
In 2018, the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), in conjunction with UnidosUS, released the report Latinos’ Retirement Insecurity in the United States. This study found that Latinos lack adequate access to workplace retirement plans, and are falling further behind other ethnic groups in retirement preparedness. For instance, only 31% of working-age Latinos participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans, compared to 53% of White Americans. In all, less than 1% of the Latino workforce has amassed retirement savings equal to or greater than their annual income. Lack of information and access are major factors in this disparity.
However, the public-sector provides a much more level playing ground in terms of retirement savings. Eighty-six percent of Hispanics who work in the public-sector have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, compared to only 47.7% of their private-sector counterparts. Defined-benefit pensions not only provide a lifetime of income for public workers, but they also reduce confusion over access, eligibility, and participation. While race and ethnicity certainly affect retirement security, it is imperative to preserve public pensions so marginalized communities can continue to gain equity, as they are a reliable wealth equalizer tool, and have a positive economic impact on state and local communities.