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. Lex M.

    In Indonbesian banks have stopped cashing social security checks. Many people receive checks because the only bank which can set up a direct deposit is HSBC which requires a very large deposit to set up an account and a 6 month waiting period befor direct deposit can be requested. Banks in Indonesia are very backward compared to other Asian banks. How are people receiving social security benefits going to survive?

  2. Miguelina

    Nice post. I study something more challenging on totally different blogs everyday. It should always be stimulating to read content material from different writers and follow a little something from their store. I’d choose to use some with the content material on my blog whether you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a link on your internet blog. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Robert R.

    How come people don’t care that social security takes back about $3,000 to $4,000 a year from people’s social security benefits. This has been going on for 33 years and the higher the cost of living the higher the take back gets.

  4. tony

    Here is how Native American Indians treat Blacks. They are a greedy bunch of people.

  5. tony

    Americans got lazy. Very few thing are made in America. They don’t want to work and stay home collecting SSDI, SSI, and welfare.

    The Federal government gives the Native American Indians a check every year and they don’t even have to work. They don’t even have to pay taxes. If Native American Indians paid Social Security taxes, then they would be eligible for benefits.

  6. Sharon B.

    What about Native American Indians? They are the original American’s and should be taken care of first.


  7. Elaine G.

    Spell check of there vs their….one 2nd grade student pointed out …go over there…vs…they have their own money…just had to add to confusion of their information…

  8. Vince

    What is being done to keep soc solvent. Last budget took more money for other government programs. Those on soc should not be the source to resolve government spending problems.

  9. John O.

    Stereo types don’t cause Americans of Asian decent to not reachout. Pride does, their culture looks down on those who go looking for a handout. This was a fluff piece. Asians are not as stupid or uneducated as we are led to believe. In fact their success in this country comes from hard work. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true of the more recent arrivals?

  10. B. L.

    If social security is running out of money then why don’t they put the stipulation that if you move and live outside the country; you then give up your social security benefits. I know of several people that currently living here just to earn social security and as soon as they reach retirement age they are packing up an getting out of here for there own country where they will live high on the hog. That isn’t fair to the poor people in this country who are trying to make it before they have to eat dog food. If you disrespect this country that much so should you loose that money.

    • Subramanian

      If you paid into the system during your working life you are entitled to collect benefits wherever you live upon retiring. You can also collect your benefits upon retirement and go elsewhere to live “high on the hog”. Can I say, “if you worked in Michigan” you cannot retire in Alabama?” Collecting benefits has nothing to do with where you choose to live. If you paid into the system you can collect anywhere. If you are still poor upon retirement, you have other available support in addition to social security. Ask your local social security office.

    • Awesome A.

      Wait, if they earned the benefit they are getting by paying Social Security taxes for their work, why should anyone care where they choose to live? Will you say the same to Canadians or other Europeans when they choose to retire in their own country?

    • Bruce M.

      Many Americans chose to retire in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, ect. Should we discontinue their SS payments? Why do you care how I or anyone chooses to spend retirement payments we have earned?

Comments are closed.