General, Medicare, Retirement

Social Security Is Important to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

February 8, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Last Updated: May 11, 2023

Photograph of Christopher Kang, National Director, National Council of Asian Pacific AmericansHappy Year of the Monkey! The Lunar New Year is another opportunity for us to make New Year’s resolutions. For many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, having a better understanding of Social Security should be on their list of things to do.

I had to learn about many of Social Security’s programs very quickly a few years ago, when my dad passed away. I found myself immersed in the world of survivor benefits, pensions, and overall income security for my mom. I learned that my parents were fortunate — Social Security was one source of their income, but not their only one.

Statistics show that a large percentage of elderly Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income. This important detail reminds us that Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders need to invest for a better financial future.

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders are one the fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. They are also one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults. According to the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, U.S. Census data estimates that nearly 1.6 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are age 65 and older. This number is projected to grow to 7.3 million by 2060.

The needs of the aging Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community are unique. Approximately 85 percent of Asian Americans aged 65 and older are foreign-born and this diverse population speaks more than 100 languages and dialects. Furthermore, 60 percent of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders over age 65 have limited English proficiency. Thirty-one percent live in a linguistically isolated household, meaning those in the household speak English “less than very well.”

Helping a community with such diverse language and cultural backgrounds prepare for retirement requires that the services be culturally competent and linguistically accessible. Social Security provides essential resources for the diverse needs of this population, including information in Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese, and the opportunity to access an interpreter by contacting Social Security at the toll-free number: 1-800-772-1213. Telephone interpreter services for people with limited English proficiency are available at free of charge.

Although Social Security provides many in-language resources, too many Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders don’t know about them. These groups are often stereotyped as “model minorities” not requiring public assistance services. The reality is that people in this group were among those hardest hit by the recession. Data from the 2010 Census shows that many Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander sub-groups have a higher rate of poverty among the elderly than the national average, including one sub-group of which most of its elderly lives below the federal poverty level. Despite this, the stereotype label may make some people in these communities reluctant to reach out for assistance.

Social Security is a lifeline for many in these communities that not only functions as a retirement program, but also provides protection through disability insurance and financial support for families with children.

While many of us celebrate the Lunar New Year with our families, we need to spread the word about how Social Security benefits our community and us. Whether it is for our parents, our grandparents, or ourselves, it is important to understand how Social Security is important to Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

Did you find this Information helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
See Comments

About the Author


  1. Awesome A.

    Terri Evers – Why are their checks bigger than mine?

    Because they may have worked harder, earned more, and paid more into the Social Security system. Sorry, your monthly check is smaller than mine.

  2. JIB

    Happy Lunar New Year! Thank you, Mr. Kang for emphasizing the importance of Social Security for all our communities.

    Unfortunately, there will always be those who must point the finger at someone else. As Marc stated, unless you are a Native American, we are all immigrants to this country…some groups just came here earlier than others. Not sure why some feel a sense of entitlement when those who receive Social Security benefits have earned those benefits. If you are referring to Supplemental Security Income benefits, you may to speak to those from your own ethnic group instead of assuming that other ethnicities/communities have not paid into the system.

  3. Salvatore R.

    Only if they are legal!!!!!

  4. james g.

    Social Security began in 1935 for American Citizens working people began recxeiving retirement benefits.
    The fund was paid for by these working people, this is not an entitlement for freeloaders.
    The last few years the freeloaders have been milking the system because some weak democrats love to steal from the working person and give there money to freeloaders. Earn your way, pay for your way. Your damm lucky your in this country to take all that you can before you earned anything. Go home and help your country progress

    • Marc

      One would think that people would make at least a minimal effort to verify the FACTS before embarrassing themselves publicly by posting obviously false information and hateful distortions they cannot support.


    Reply to Terry and Tired: Just because some A/PI people don’t speak the language well does not mean they haven’t paid Social Security taxes. If they were drawing a paycheck, they paid into the system and are eligible for benefits. BTW, my American-born, Caucasian grandmother was a housewife (as many were in the 1930s and 40s) and did not work outside the home. She collected SS when she was eligible.

    • Marc

      I’m sure these generous, loving, fair-minded individuals do not believe your grandmother is entitled to SS benefits, either. Clearly they don’t have any more clue as to how Social Security works than the Asian Americans they’re denigrating.

  6. M.D.Gandhi

    Many Many Thanks to Social Security for financial Help to retired and elderly families..

    • Ray F.

      Thanks for your comment! We appreciate your thoughts. We will continue our efforts to meet your requirements and expectations in the years to come.

  7. Terry E.

    Why are their checks bigger than mine? I paid in all my life they paid zero. They should not be getting anything.

    • Alice G.

      Amen !!

    • Awesome A.

      You should read Mr. Kang’s post more carefully before posting. Happy Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey!

    • Subramanian

      The Social Security benefit that one gets upon retirement is dependent on how much you paid into the system during your working life over how long a time. The calculations used in computing the benefit is universally the same for all . No one gets social security if they did not pay into the FICA. The so-called supplemental security income is a separate category.

  8. tired i.

    Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, having a better understanding of Social Security should not be on their list of things to do. If they can’t speak the language and have “little” knowledge of Social Security, they clearly have not paid in to this program and should not be allowed to collect from it. This is what is driving Social Security to the point of bankruptcy. These so called “Americans” who have “relocated” here do this for a reason: because they can. If I, an American born and raised here moved to China, I would not be given any special treatment of Benefit from another country. These benefits that are handed out to foreigners should not be afforded, as they are not entitled to them. Wake up America!!! There is going to be nothing left for those of us who have lived and worked very hard in the US, only to be told that “our” money is gone. If they can’t speak the language, they shouldn’t be given the benefit. Go home, there won’t be a language barrier and our system will stop being squeezed dry.

    • Bobby

      Could not have said it better!!!!

    • Trang H.

      It is true that United States of America is the land of freedom and opportunity. Social Security benefit is only given to those who are qualified whether you were born in different countries. Language barrier is not a factor that stop those foreigners to work hard and pay back to the society the same way all-born Americans do. Plus it might be the reason they get paid less when they do more that those Americans. Perhaps I would agree that Asian Americans who has language barrier should take more responsibility in learning better English so that they can fully understand an take what they truly deserve and educate those American born who are at times ignorant about the system and its benefits

    • Marc

      I didn’t think it would take long for the hateful, ignorant bigots to come forth spewing their nonsensical venom. You apparently have an issue with reading comprehension. The article clearly said “Asian AMERICANS.” Meaning these are American citizens, no less than you are. They happen to have Asian ancestry, just as you undoubtedly carry the genetic code of your own ancestors who “relocated” here from another country. With the exception of the Native Americans, there is not one person in the United States whose ancestors didn’t come here from somewhere else. Your statement, and the agreement of other, equally hateful and ignorant posters, is beyond irrational to the point of ludicrous. All you’ve proven by it is how uneducated and petty you must be.

  9. James S.

    My wife Merlita was born a Filipino. Will she be able to receive survivor from SS after I die?

    • Ray F.

      Hi James, your wife may qualify for Widow’s Benefits. Thanks for your question!

      • George

        Hello Mr. Fernandez,
        It is not clear if the widow “must have an SSN or not”. Please clear that up for us. The next question is.. what if that current spouse is not the first wife, nor has an SSN. Thank you for your response in advance.

        • Ray F.

          Good questions George. For the most part, state or federal law requires an individual to have a Social Security number to get benefits that person may be entitled to. To answer your second question: A divorced spouse of a worker who dies, could get benefits just the same as a widow, provided that their marriage lasted 10 years or more. Please visit our Survivors Benefit Planner for more information.

  10. Lic. P.

    Congratulations for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in this year.


    Pierre & Wife

Comments are closed.