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Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 612–624 | Cite as

Differences in the Likelihood of Ownership of Retirement Saving Assets by the Foreign and Native-Born

  • Angela Fontes
Original Paper

Abstract

This research compares the determinants of retirement savings asset ownership between the native-born and immigrants. Analysis of Survey of Income and Program Participation data indicate there do not appear to be differences in the likelihood of ownership between European or Asian immigrants and the native-born, but there are differences between Latin American immigrants and the native-born in retirement savings asset utilization. Distributional effects related to ethnic identity, income, and education appear to compound these differences. While factors indicating greater acculturation increase the likelihood of ownership for all immigrant groups, there are substantial differences in the way these variables affect ownership. General savings asset ownership is more affected by immigration, while retirement savings is more sensitive to acculturation and ethnic identity.

Keywords

Immigration Race Retirement Savings 

Introduction

Immigration continues to play an integral role in the growth of the U.S. population. Estimates indicate that immigration could contribute as much as 82% to the total population growth between 2005 and 2050 in the U.S. (Passel and Cohn 2008). This increase in the immigrant population in the U.S. promises to change aggregate statistics in many areas, including those indicating the financial well-being of the nation.

While the demographic composition of the nation continues to change to include more immigrants, we are also seeing changes in the age and dependency composition of the country. Estimates of the nation’s ‘dependency ratio’, or the number of dependent elderly and children per working adult, show a considerable increase; from 59 dependents per 100 working adults in 2005 to 72 dependents per 100 working adults in 2050 (Passel and Cohn 2008). These sobering statistics indicate a need to understand the impact of immigration on financial preparedness for retirement.

Because Social Security is usually not sufficient to completely fund retirement, one of the major components of retirement planning in the U.S. has been the use of retirement accounts (including IRA, Keogh, and 401k and other employer-sponsored accounts). Although not mandatory, there is some evidence that formal banking accounts is related to increased saving (Grinstein-Weiss et al. 2010) and may assist in the saving process by facilitating the conversion of assets into non-liquid forms (Beverly et al. 2003). However, previous research has demonstrated significant differences in saving in general, and retirement saving specifically, based immigration status.

Immigrants may face numerous challenges in accessing and utilizing formal financial assets. Depending on individual characteristics and country of origin, newly arrived immigrants may face unknown financial markets, language barriers, and depleted resources due to the immigration event itself (Hao 2004). The inflated “start-up” costs of immigrating to the U.S. and the possible use of familial support structures rather than personal retirement savings vehicles such as IRA’s or 401k plans may act to limit the use of retirement savings by foreign-born individuals. Finally, because immigrants are more frequently lower-income and less educated than native-born individuals (Osili and Paulson 2006), it may be that lower usage of retirement assets are the result of this demographic pattern.

However, while the immigration experience itself may act as a financial shock to the household, it may be a planned-for event. It is possible that because immigrants frequently have a shorter period in the U.S. in which to save for retirement, they may be more active in saving, attempting to make up for lost time, resulting in less use of general savings vehicles (such as savings accounts, CD’s and bonds) but greater use of retirement assets. While previous research has addressed general saving asset use among immigrants, there is little examining retirement asset ownership specifically.

Using data from the 2004 Survey of Income and Program Participation, multivariate analysis is used to examine possible differences in retirement saving between otherwise similar native born and foreign-born individuals. This research makes several important contributions to our understanding of the effects of immigration on retirement asset use. First, the use of a well-known nationally representative data set allows for robust analyses by providing information on immigrants from three general regions of the world, retirement and general saving asset ownership, and a host of demographic, employment (including employer sponsorship of retirement savings assets) and acculturation-related independent variables. In addition, this research examines potential differences in these effects for native-born versus immigrant individuals; this paper will utilize multiple models to examine the potential differences in the direction and magnitude of the effects of independent variables on immigrant and native-born individuals. Finally, the examination of the relationship between general savings assets and retirement assets conducted in this research provides insight into factors related specifically to retirement asset ownership when compared to more general savings asset ownership.

Literature Review

There has been significant literature on saving behavior and the variables that determine who is likely to save and to own general savings assets (such as savings accounts, CD’s and bonds), but little on the relationship between immigration and retirement saving asset (such as 401k, IRA and Keogh account) ownership specifically. Although far from exhaustive, the next section will review the relevant previous literature on the saving and savings asset ownership behavior of native and foreign-born individuals, as well as literature examining the financial acculturation process of the foreign-born.

Immigration

There is limited research on the specific retirement savings patterns of immigrant populations as compared to those of native-born individuals. In addition to the limited nature of the past work, the conclusions drawn by previous researchers have proven contradictory. In an early study of immigrant savings patterns, Galor and Stark (1990) indicate that those more likely to emigrate have higher levels of general savings. A later study using U.S. Census and Population Housing data supports this finding (Carroll et al. 1999), indicating that although the savings rates of immigrant populations varies significantly depending on their country of origin, the savings rates of all immigrants groups are higher than that of the U.S. native born population.

However, the majority of research indicates that immigrants less frequently save than the native-born. A number of studies indicate that the general saving rates and asset utilization of immigrant populations are lower than those of their native-born counterparts (Amuedo-Dorantes 2002; Cobb-Clark and Hildebrand 2006a, b; Osili and Paulson 2006, 2008; Paulson and Rhine 2008; Rhine and Greene 2006; Shamsudden and DeVoretz 1998). Although these studies examine general savings, there is also evidence that immigrants utilize retirement assets (including IRA and Keogh accounts) for saving less frequently (Osili and Paulson 2006).

Acculturation

Acculturation is defined as a social process by which two or more groups interact resulting in some change to one or several of the groups’ cultural practices (Lee 1988; Redfield et al. 1936). Previous research has examined financial behavior in the context of acculturation, including how the length of time that an individual has been in the U.S. may also impact retirement savings (Fontes and Gutter 2006; Hao 2004; Osili and Paulson 2008). This may manifest in the financial ability to save (as a result of the financial stress of relocating and the possible loss of financial resources in the home country), but may also be related to the level of acculturation experienced by the individual. Although few formal examinations of the effects of U.S. tenure have been conducted, there is literature suggesting that the acculturation process affects consumer behavior (Ogden et al. 2004) and that the longer someone is exposed to the prevalent culture, the more they engage in mainstream behaviors (Hao 2004; Keefe 1980).

Although the immigration event itself may affect retirement saving asset usage, the financial market in the country (or region) of origin is likely to affect asset use based on both institutional characteristics in the home country (Osili and Paulson 2006, 2008; Hao 2004) and labor markets (Dustmann 1997). Each immigrant group brings with it different experiences and expectations of a formal banking system and of retirement. An immigrant’s intent to stay in the U.S., or return to their home country at some later date, possibly for retirement, may impact their use of retirement asset usage as well. This might imply that rather than engage in formal retirement saving using a 401k, Keogh, or IRA plan here in the U.S., immigrants planning to return to home may be sending money to family in the home country, or engaging in some other form of saving there. In at least some situations, research has found a positive relationship between identification with American culture and intent to stay in the U.S. (Jun et al. 1993).

While previous research on the differences in savings rates of foreign and native-born individuals has been mixed, the conclusion that foreign-born individuals generally save less than native-born individuals may indicate that immigration has some effect on an individual’s savings for retirement. In addition, acculturation effects may result in a higher level of adoption of formal retirement savings among immigrants who have been in the U.S. longer, resulting from increased contact with American culture. Finally, demographic, financial and acculturation-based factors may affect immigrants from diverse parts of the world differently, based on previous experiences in the country-of-origin as well as the treatment and history of the immigrant group in the U.S.

Impacts of Demographic Variables

Several demographic variables have been shown to influence savings behavior, and, on average, foreign-born households look quite different from native-born households demographically. The most significant variable, income, has a profound effects on individual saving behavior, with higher income individuals saving a greater percentage of their income (Avery and Kennickell 1991), and more likely to engage in saving behavior in general (Spencer and Fan 2002; Yuh and Hanna 2010). Research on income differentials among Asian, White and Black individuals specifically indicates that both race/ethnicity and native or foreign-born status impacts income (Sharpe 2008; Sharpe and Abdel-Ghany 2006).

Another financial factor, home ownership, may change the way an individual saves for retirement. Households that own their home tend to save more than households that do not own their home (Bosworth et al. 1991; Spencer and Fan 2002; Yuh and Hanna 2010). Those individuals with the financial experience and resources necessary to undergo the home purchasing process may be further along in their ability (or acculturation) to access and navigate financial resources and therefore be more likely to utilize retirement assets than non-owning individuals. However, the additional costs associated with the purchase of a home may act to decrease the ability of an individual to save, or the home may be seen as an asset that can be liquidated for funds in retirement.

The makeup of the household may have some impact on an individuals’ level of saving, particularly the presence of children and additional numbers of household members. Married individuals appear to use financial assets more frequently to save for retirement (Osili and Paulson 2006) and previous work has found that households with children tend to save less than those without children (Bosworth et al. 1991; Osili and Paulson 2006).

Educational attainment also has significant effects on saving behavior. Individuals with higher levels of educational attainment have higher savings levels (Avery and Kennickell 1991) and are more likely to have savings than debt or debt and savings (Spencer and Fan 2002), indicating that that educational attainment may affect not only an individual’s saving behavior, but engagement in savings. In addition, those with higher levels of educational attainment may have more exposure to information about both the benefits of, and options for, retirement savings. However, educational attainment may not mean the same thing for immigrants and for native-born individuals. Measures of educational attainment in the SIPP data do not indicate where the education was obtained, and previous research indicates that education may not increase saving for immigrants as much as it does for native-born individuals (Hao 2004).

Studies have found different effects of ethnic identity on saving behavior. Yuh and Hanna (2010) find that Black households are less likely to report saving than otherwise similar white households, and Spencer and Fan (2002) find that African American and Hispanic households are less likely than white American households to have savings, holding income and other demographic variables constant. Several other studies (Avery and Kennickell 1991; Gittleman and Wolff 2004) find that ethnic identity is not significant in predicting saving behavior when other factors, particularly income, are controlled for. While country-of-origin may affect an individual’s acculturation pattern, ethnic identity may affect the use of retirement assets as well. A consumer’s ethnic identity may influence the access to (based on limited availability in specific communities or discrimination based on ethnic identity on the part of financial institutions) and awareness of (based on a lack of marketing or education) a particular financial asset (Gutter and Fontes 2006). Similarly, in their examination of financial risk tolerance, Yao et al. (2005) theorize that difference based on culture and exposure to financial information may manifest in racial/ethnic differences in financial risk tolerance.

Consistent with life-cycle/permanent income hypothesis, saving rates tend to increase with age until the retirement years (Attanasio 1993; Avery and Kennickell 1991; Bosworth et al. 1991). Previous research suggests that age may also have a significant effect on saving behavior.

Hypotheses

In sum, four general hypotheses are proposed. (H1) First, immigration will negatively affect the use of formal retirement assets. (H2) Second, the effect of immigration on the ownership of retirement assets will be greater than the effect of immigration on general saving asset use. (H3) Third, factors associated with increased acculturation (including English language use, increased tenure in U.S., intent to stay) will positively affect the use of retirement assets. (H4) Finally, because immigrant groups are affected by differing area-of-origin factors and different histories in the U.S., the effects of factors associated with increased acculturation on the use of retirement savings assets will vary by geographical area of origin. Because evidence suggests demographic and financial variables might influence the retirement savings of immigrant and native-born individuals in different ways (Hao 2004), multiple models are estimated for each of the foreign-born and native-born groups.

Data and Methods

Data

This study used data from the 2004 Survey of Income and Program Participation (U.S. Census Bureau, Demographics Survey Division, Survey of Income and Program Participation Branch 2004). The SIPP gathers panel data on a multi-stage stratified sample of the non-institutionalized U.S. population. The 2004 panel consisted of quarterly interviews over a 3-year span. In addition to the “core” data on income and household demographics, data were collected on “topical” areas each quarter (wave) of the survey. For this analysis, data from topical modules 2, 6 and 7 were used in addition to the core data set.

The individual was chosen as the primary unit of analysis.1 Individuals between 18 and 65 who are not retired and had complete responses for the dependent and independent variables were used in this analysis. The final sample size was 62,251 individuals.

Dependent Variables

The dependent variable in the analysis was the individual’s participation in a retirement savings vehicle. This was measured as a dichotomous variable indicating participation in a 401k, IRA or Keogh account, or not. For comparison, an additional model of general saving asset ownership was estimated. This general savings variable was also dichotomous, indicating the ownership of any (or multiple) savings account, CD or saving bond.

Independent Variables

The main independent variable used in this analysis is immigration status. Immigration status was specified in two ways. In the first analysis, immigration was a dichotomous variable indicating if the individual immigrated to the U.S. or was born in the U.S. In the second set of analyses, individuals born in the U.S. (or born abroad of American citizens) were defined as native-born, and individuals born abroad (not of American parents) were assigned to one of six categories,2 based on the length of time they have been in the U.S. (see Table 1 for full variable specification).
Table 1

Variable specification

Retirement saving

1 = owns a 401k or other employer-sponsored retirement, and/or IRA or Keogh account; 0 otherwise

General saving

1 = owns a savings account, CD, or bond; 0 otherwise

Migration related

 Migrant

1 = born in the U.S.; 0 otherwise

 Migrant (second set of analyses)

Migration status of the individual, six categories: native; came to U.S. between 2002 and 2004; came to U.S. between 2001 and 2000; came to U.S. between 1997 and 1999; came to U.S. between 1993 and 1996; came to U.S. between 1983 and 1992; came to U.S. before 1983

 Language

Use of English language, three categories: speaks English at home; does not speak English at home, but speaks English well or very well; does not speak English at home and speaks English not well or not at all

 Citizenship

1 = if U.S. citizen (naturalized or native-born); 0 otherwise

Demographic

 Age

Age of the individual; age-squared = age*age

 Education

Education level of the individual, four categories: less than high school; high school graduate; college graduate; post-graduate

 Married

1 = married; 0 otherwise

 Presence of children

1 = children in the household; 0 otherwise

 Urbanicity

1 = lives in an identified MSA; 0 otherwise

 Gender

1 = male; 0 otherwise

 Ethnic identity

Self-reported ethnic identity, either white/non-white, OR one of five categories: white, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and other identities

Financial and employment related

 Income

Log of monthly income

 Homeownership

1 = if home owned; 0 otherwise

 Employment-related

Employment and sponsored retirement account status of individual, three categories: not employed; employed without access to a retirement account; employed with access to a retirement account

While the immigration event itself may impact retirement savings asset ownership, there are other characteristics related to immigration that may affect savings decisions. Most notably, area-of-origin may influence the likelihood of retirement asset ownership; Hispanic American, Asian, and European (including Australian and Canadian) immigrants were examined independently.3 Variables indicating English language use and U.S. citizenship were included in the models to examine the effect of acculturation.

In addition to the immigration-related variables, other demographic variables were considered in the model (see Table 1 for full variable specification). Included were income (log), age (age-squared), citizenship, gender, ethnic identity (specified either as white/non-white, or as White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, or other), education, marital status, presence of children in the household, urbanicity of the MSA of residence, and homeownership. Finally, employment-related variables were included in the models. The employment status of the individual was included, as was the availability of employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts.

Statistical Methods

First, demographic characteristics of the sample were examined. Initial cross tabulations of the total sample and country-of-origin subsamples and all independent variables were examined to determine any significant differences in the demographic variables between native-born and immigrant individuals (Table 3).4

In order to analyze differences in the retirement savings behavior of foreign and native-born individuals, a logit model was used to estimate the effects of the independent variables on retirement asset ownership. This method is one that allows for the independent determination of the exogenous and demographic variables effects’ on the individuals’ saving behavior. An initial model including an indicator of immigration status was estimated to test Hypotheses 1. The same model was estimated with general savings asset ownership as the dependent variable to test Hypotheses 2.
$$ { \ln }\left( {\frac{{{\text{prob}}\left( {\text{owns}} \right)}}{{1 - {\text{prob}}\left( {\text{owns}} \right)}}} \right) = \alpha + \beta_{1} x_{1} + \beta_{i} z_{i} + \varepsilon $$
where the (log) likelihood of owning a retirement saving account is dependent on an individual’s immigration status (x 1) and a vector of control variables (z).
Finally, individual estimation of the models for each of the three area-of-origin groups (Latin American, Asian, and European; see Table 2 for the list of countries in each area) was conducted to test Hypotheses 3 and 4. Because immigrants from different countries may be impacted in different ways by demographic, financial, and migration-related variables, multiple models allows for the independent investigation of the effects of these variables on the retirement savings of immigrants from different areas.
Table 2

Area of origin country listing

Latin American

 Belize

Nicaragua

Dominican Rep.

Honduras

Trinidad/Tobago

Argentina

Guyana

 Costa

Panama

Grenada

Mexico

Caribbean

Bolivia

Peru

 El Salvador

Central America

Haiti

Barbados

Colombia

Brazil

Uruguay

 Guatemala

Bahamas

Jamaica

Cuba

Ecuador

Chile

Venezuela

Asian

 Afghanistan

India

Jordan

China

Malaysia

Philippines

Turkey

 Bangladesh

Indonesia

Korea/South Korea

Hong Kong

Pakistan

Saudi Arabia

Vietnam

 Burma

Iran

Lao

Israel

Taiwan

Singapore

Asia

 Cambodia

Iraq

Lebanon

Japan

Thailand

Syria

Palestine

European

 Austria

Greece

Poland

France

Switzerland

England

Lithuania

 Belgium

Hungary

Portugal

Germany

Great Britain

Scotland

Armenia

 Czechoslovakia

Ireland/Eire

Romania

Netherlands

USSR

Yugoslavia

Russia

 Denmark

Italy

Spain

Norway

Latvia

Europe

Ukraine

 Finland

Holland

Sweden

New Zealand

Australia

Czech Republic

Canada

Results

Demographic Differences

Descriptive analyses are presented in Table 3. Results indicated that immigrants utilize retirement savings assets far less than native-born individuals, particularly those from Latin America; native-born individuals owned retirement assets at almost three times the rate of Latin American immigrants. However, differences were not as substantial between native-born and immigrant individuals in ownership of general savings assets. Although Latin American immigrants less frequently owned these assets, there were no significant differences between native-born and Asian or European immigrants.
Table 3

Descriptive statistics of the sample by area of origin

Characteristic

 

Total

Native

Latin American

Asian

Europeana

n:

62251

54304

4413

2125

1409

Retirement saving (% own)

37.54

41.01

14.60

37.99

39.82

General saving (% own)

43.56

46.73

25.26

45.07

46.84

Immigration related

Migrant %

 Native

86.09

100.00

na

na

na

 Immigrated between 2002 and 2004

1.14

na

8.25

8.28

7.96

 Immigrated between 2001 and 2000

1.38

na

11.27

9.86

6.16

 Immigrated between 1997 and 1999

1.76

na

14.42

10.36

11.39

 Immigrated between 1993 and 1996

1.70

na

14.42

13.25

12.01

 Immigrated between 1983 and 1992

3.75

na

27.06

29.34

24.43

 Immigrated before 1983

3.98

na

24.58

28.91

38.05

Language %

 English at home

85.50

93.22

35.24

40.80

62.00

 English well or very well

10.56

5.96

34.51

47.50

32.23

 English not well or not at all

3.94

0.83

30.25

11.70

5.77

Citizenship % (citizen)

75.26

100.00

25.57

46.12

51.59

Demographic

Age (years)

39.14

39.65

37.75

40.37

41.91

Education

 Less than high school

10.65

8.02

35.72

7.25

5.32

 High school diploma

62.44

64.20

53.77

37.37

52.14

 College degree

18.13

18.91

7.24

32.78

22.44

 Post graduate

8.78

8.87

3.28

20.30

20.10

Marital status % (married)

53.64

53.38

61.37

71.75

65.66

Presence of children % (with children)

36.72

35.93

49.32

40.00

32.58

Urban %

63.46

62.96

65.80

68.99

67.68

Gender % (male)

50.02

49.48

52.95

51.59

48.30

Ethnic identity %

 White

66.84

74.27

15.27

14.85

88.91

 Black

11.76

12.56

8.38

1.62

3.91

 Latino

14.73

9.18

74.79

0.23

1.73

 Asian

3.88

1.03

0.97

79.55

2.07

 Other identities

2.80

2.97

0.59

3.75

3.37

Financial and employment related

Incomeb ($)

5,866

6,059

4,078

7,322

7,192

Own home (% own)

54.83

58.16

38.51

48.40

55.39

Employment-related %

 Unemployed

19.35

18.75

22.21

21.82

17.93

 Working, no retirement plan

49.19

47.46

60.35

49.00

46.10

 Working, with a retirement plan

31.46

33.78

17.44

29.18

35.97

aIncludes Canada and Australia

bReported monthly

Immigration related characteristics also varied among the area-of-origin groups. While a considerable proportion of European immigrants came to the U.S. prior to 1983 (38%), Latin American and Asian immigrants tended to be more recent arrivals, with more than 20% of each group arriving in the U.S. between 2001 and 2004 (the most recent date of arrival available in the 2004 SIPP data). The overwhelming majority of European and Asian immigrants spoke English at home (94 and 88%, respectively), but fewer (70%) immigrants from Latin American countries spoke English well. Finally, Latin American immigrants were only half as frequently U.S. citizens when compared to either Asian or European immigrants.

Demographic analysis indicated that Latin American immigrants were slightly younger than the native-born, or Asian or European immigrants. Educationally, Asian and European immigrants were highly educated; these immigrants had double the rate of graduate degree earning individuals as U.S. natives and almost seven times that of Latin American immigrants. Conversely, 35% of Latin American immigrants did not have a high school diploma. All immigrant groups were more frequently married than the native-born, and Asian and Latin American immigrants more frequently reported having children in the household. The majority of each area-of-origin groups reported ethnic identity in line with the area-of-origin (Latin American immigrants reported Hispanic/Hispanic, Asian immigrants reported Asian).

Financially, the income of the native-born and of Asian and European immigrants was similar, with that of Latin American immigrants far lower. Asian and Latin American immigrants were less frequently homeowners than native-born individuals or European immigrants. Although Latin American immigrants were only slightly less employed than the other groups, they held jobs with access to employer-sponsored retirement accounts far less frequently (17%) than either native-born (34%), Asian (29%) or European (36%) immigrants.

Immigrant-Native Differences in Retirement and General Saving Asset Ownership

Models were estimated for both retirement asset ownership (IRA, Keogh, 401k/403b) and general savings asset ownership (savings account, CD, bond) to compare the overall effects of immigration and immigration-related variables on the likelihood of each type of asset ownership. These models included all native-born and immigrant individuals, and included an indicator variable for area-of-origin. Results are presented in Table 4, with a reduced model, including an indicator of immigration status, presented first, a full model, including immigration status and immigration-related variables, presented next, and the marginal effects of this full model presented third. This is repeated for the model of general savings on the right-most columns of the table.
Table 4

Retirement and general saving model comparison

 

Retirement savings

General savings

Reduced

Full

ME

Reduced

Full

ME

Intercept

−8.136***

−8.686***

 

−2.110***

−2.332***

 

Age

0.183***

0.181***

0.025

−0.005

−0.006

−0.001

Age2

−0.002***

−0.002***

<−0.001

<−0.001

<0.001

<0.001

Education (ref: high school)

 Less than high school

−1.110***

−1.014***

−0.140

−0.613***

−0.557***

−0.111

 College degree

1.000***

0.982***

0.136

0.593***

0.572***

0.114

 Post graduate

1.223***

1.215***

0.168

0.756***

0.735***

0.147

Gender (male)

0.050*

0.067**

0.009

−0.262***

−0.255***

−0.051

Marital status (married)

0.394***

0.398***

0.055

0.529***

0.532***

0.106

Presence of children

−0.162***

−0.147***

−0.020

−0.088***

−0.071**

−0.014

Ethnic identity (ref: white)

 Black

−0.713***

−0.774***

−0.107

−0.627***

−0.685***

−0.137

 Latino

−0.762***

−0.267**

−0.037

−0.225***

−0.127

−0.025

 Asian

−0.255**

−0.107

−0.015

−0.025

0.066

0.013

 Other identities

−0.318***

−0.349***

−0.048

−0.271***

−0.311***

−0.062

Urban

0.118***

0.148***

0.019

0.156***

0.178***

0.036

Income

0.200***

0.196***

0.027

0.152***

0.149***

0.030

Own home

0.584***

0.545***

0.076

0.472***

0.445***

0.089

Employment-related (ref: unemployed)

 Working, no retirement plan

0.957***

0.964***

0.133

0.513***

0.517***

0.103

 Working, with a retirement plan

3.038***

3.042***

0.421

1.129***

1.125***

0.225

Immigrant (ref: native-born)

−0.390***

na

na

−0.168**

na

na

Language (ref: English at home)

 English well or very well

 

−0.287***

−0.040

 

−0.062

−0.012

 English not well or not at all

 

−1.007***

−0.139

 

−0.041***

−0.082

Citizenship (citizen)

 

0.659***

0.091

 

0.288***

0.057

Area of origin (ref: U.S.)

 Latin America

 

−0.346***

−0.048

 

−0.423***

−0.085

 Asia

 

−0.059

−0.008

 

−0.112

−0.022

 Europea

 

0.021

0.003

 

0.030

0.006

p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001

aIncludes Canada and Australia

Although the reduced-form model including only the indicator for immigrant status indicated that immigrants were less likely to own retirement assets, the full-form model (including immigration and immigration-related variables) revealed that the entirety of the effect was related to Latin American immigrants. The full-form model indicated immigrants from Latin American countries were 4.8 percentage points less likely to own retirement savings accounts than native-born individuals, while immigrants from European and Asian areas had ownership rates similar to those of the native-born. These findings provide partial support for Hypothesis 1. This immigration effect appeared to be compounded by that of ethnic identity; both the full and reduced models indicated that Hispanic ethnic identity also decreased the likelihood of retirement asset ownership by 3.7 percentage points.

The results of the general savings asset ownership model (presented in Table 4) were similar to those of the retirement asset ownership model, but did include some notable differences. The reduced form models both indicated that immigration decreased the likelihood of ownership, and the full-form models both specified that Latin American immigrants were those most negatively affected. Marginal effects indicated that Latin American immigrants were 4.8 percentage points less likely than the native-born to own a retirement asset and 8.5 percentage points less likely to own a general savings asset, rejecting Hypothesis 2. Although the direct effects of immigration on asset ownership by Latin American immigrants were greater for general savings assets than on retirement savings assets, there was evidence that the influence of retirement savings asset ownership on factors related to immigration and ethnic identity may be greater. Those reporting Hispanic ethnic identity were not less likely to own a general savings retirement asset, but Hispanic ethnic identity did negatively affect retirement asset ownership; Hispanics were 3.7 percentage points less likely to own a retirement saving asset than White individuals. The gap between non-English speakers and English speakers in the likelihood of general and retirement savings account ownership was greater for retirement asset ownership than it was for general asset ownership; individuals speaking English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’ were 13.9 percentage points less likely to own retirement assets, but only 8.2 percentage points less likely than at-home English speakers to own a general savings asset. Compared to those who spoke English at home, speaking English ‘well’ or ‘very well’ reduced the likelihood of retirement asset ownership, but did not reduce the likelihood of general savings asset ownership. These results suggest that while general savings asset ownership is more closely tied with the immigration itself for Latin American immigrants, retirement savings asset ownership is additionally influenced by ethnic identity and acculturation.

These findings also support Hypothesis 3, that factors associated with increased acculturation will positively affect retirement savings asset ownership. The additional measure of acculturation included in this first set of models, U.S. citizenship, is consistent with this hypothesis; U.S. citizens were nine percentage points more likely to own some type of retirement asset when compared to non-citizens. Although immigrants from Latin American areas experienced reduced retirement asset ownership, increased acculturation, represented here the form of English usage and U.S. citizenship, may lessen the impact of immigration.

Effects of demographic and financial variables on retirement asset ownership were consistent with previous research on saving and retirement asset ownership (Avery and Kennickell 1991; Osili and Paulson 2006; Bosworth et al. 1991; Spencer and Fan 2002). Factors that increased the likelihood of ownership included income, college education, marriage, living in an urban MSA, homeownership, male gender, and employment both with and without access to an employer-sponsored retirement account. Conversely, the presence of children in the household, the lack of a high school diploma, and Black and Hispanic ethnic identification resulted in decreased likelihood of ownership. Age increased the likelihood of ownership until approximately age 46, and then decreased the likelihood of ownership later in life.

These models address three of the four above stated hypotheses. First, there did appear to be some level of negative impact for Latin American immigrants on retirement asset ownership, supporting the first hypothesis. Next, the effects of immigration appeared to have a greater direct impact on general savings, while acculturation and ethnic identity were more related to retirement saving asset ownership; these findings do not support Hypothesis 2. Finally, variables associated with increased acculturation (including English language usage/proficiency and U.S. citizenship) did appear to increase the likelihood of ownership, supporting the Hypothesis 3.

While the above models estimated the effects of immigration and different areas-of-origin on retirement asset ownership, they assumed that the demographic and financial variables included in the models impacted asset ownership in the same way for all immigrant groups. Hypothesis 4 requires investigation of differences between area-of-origin groups. To more fully investigate the impacts of immigration of retirement asset ownership within immigrant groups, separate models were estimated for native-born individuals and each of the three area-of-origin groups, including acculturation-related variables and U.S. tenure. Table 5 presents results of the logit models for each group, and the corresponding marginal effects. The following sections will discuss each of these groups individually.
Table 5

Area of origin model estimates and marginal effects

 

Parameter estimates

Native-born

Latin American

Asian

Europeana

 

ME

 

ME

 

ME

 

ME

Intercept

−8.357***

 

−11.199***

 

−9.208***

 

−7.829***

 

Age

0.178***

0.025

0.170***

0.014

0.157**

0.022

0.228***

0.034

Age2

−0.002***

<−0.001

−0.002**

<−0.001

−0.002*

<−0.001

−0.002**

<−0.001

Education (ref: high school)

 Less than high school

−1.156***

−0.164

−0.340*

−0.032

−0.916*

−0.125

−1.131*

−0.166

 College degree

1.017***

0.144

0.493*

0.039

0.762***

0.104

0.648**

0.095

 Post graduate

1.205***

0.171

1.469***

0.117

1.303***

0.178

1.228***

0.181

Gender (male)

0.057*

0.008

0.387**

0.031

0.176

0.024

−0.096

−0.014

Marital status (married)

0.441***

0.063

0.081

0.006

0.215

0.029

0.111

0.016

Presence of children

−0.137***

−0.020

−0.250

−0.020

−0.464**

−0.064

−0.110

−0.016

Ethnic identity (ref: non-white)

0.622***

0.088

0.212

0.017

0.209

0.029

0.033

0.005

Urban

0.150***

0.021

−0.060

−0.005

0.085

0.012

−0.659**

−0.097

Income

0.192***

0.027

0.453**

0.036

0.284***

0.039

0.121*

0.018

Own home

0.526***

0.075

0.532***

0.042

0.747***

0.102

0.858***

0.126

Employment-related (ref: unemployed)

 Working, no retirement plan

0.972***

0.138

0.693**

0.055

1.066***

0.146

0.412

0.061

 Working, with a retirement plan

3.013***

0.428

3.345***

0.267

3.094***

0.424

2.771***

0.407

Language (ref: English at home)

 English well or very well

  

−0.198

−0.016

−0.330

−0.045

−0.052

−0.008

 English not well or not at all

  

−0.788***

−0.063

−1.041***

−0.143

−2.233***

−0.328

Citizenship (citizen)

  

0.759***

0.061

0.644***

0.088

0.364

0.053

US tenure (ref: immigrated between 2002 and 2004)

 Immigrated between 2001 and 2000

  

0.040

0.003

−0.336

−0.046

0.338

0.050

 Immigrated between 1997 and 1999

  

0.168

0.013

0.240

0.033

0.487

0.072

 Immigrated between 1993 and 1996

  

0.360

0.029

0.787**

0.108

0.170

0.025

 Immigrated between 1983 and 1992

  

0.599**

0.048

0.387*

0.053

0.604*

0.089

 Immigrated before 1983

  

0.509**

0.041

0.535*

0.073

0.505*

0.074

p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001

aIncludes Canada and Australia

Latin American Immigrants

In general, demographic variables were less predictive in modeling Latin American immigrant ownership of retirement assets than they were in the native-born model. One variable, (male) gender had a particularly positive impact on Latin American immigrant ownership when compared to the other three groups. Many variables, including marital status, the presence of children, ethnic identity and residence in an urban area were significant predictors for native-born individuals, but were not for Latin American immigrants. Even education, a strong predictor for the native-born, and Asian and European immigrant groups, was far less predictive of retirement asset ownership for Latin American immigrants; Latin American immigrants with a high school diploma were only seven percentage points less likely to own retirement assets than Latin American immigrants with a college education, while the next least impacted group, Asian immigrants, had a 33 percentage point difference.

Financially, Latin American immigrants were similarly less affected. Homeownership and employment indicators did positively increase the likelihood of retirement asset ownership among Latin American immigrants, but not to the same extent they did for other groups. However, income appeared to be a major factor in the likelihood of retirement asset ownership for Latin American immigrants, more so than for most of the other groups. Because the mean income for Latin American immigrants is just over half that of any of the other groups this finding was telling; although greater income substantially increased the likelihood of ownership, the average income of Latin American immigrants was so much lower than that of the other groups the greater effect was effectively lost. This suggested that for Latin American immigrants, the lower relative distribution of income might be as important as the immigration event in reducing retirement asset ownership.

The immigration related variables followed a similar pattern for all three of the groups examined. For the most part, acculturation related factors did not appear to impact Latin American immigrants as substantially as they did other groups, but there was evidence of distributional effects. For Latin American immigrants, linguistic isolation (speaking no or very little English) reduced the likelihood of ownership six percentage points; not as much as it did for Asian or European immigrants, 14 and 33 percentage points, respectively. However, when considered in the context of the number of Latin American immigrants who were linguistically isolated, almost three times that of Asian immigrants and six times that of European immigrants, the lower levels of Latin American retirement asset ownership proved consistent.

U.S. citizenship and U.S. tenure also followed this pattern, both increasing the likelihood of ownership among Latin American immigrants. Longer-term immigrants in all immigrant groups experienced an increase in ownership likelihood with longer U.S. tenure. Latin American immigrants who had been in the U.S. at least 12 years experienced an increase in the likelihood of retirement asset ownership; however, Asian immigrants began to see an increase in the likelihood of ownership earlier (8–9 years). Additionally, increases associated with longer U.S. tenure were smaller for Latin American immigrants than they were for the other two immigrant groups. Distributional effects were also evident here; the proportion of Latin American immigrants in the longer-term tenure groups (12 years in the U.S. or more) was a full 10% less than that of European immigrants and 6% less than that of Asian immigrants. This suggested that not only did Latin American immigrants less frequently have longer tenure in the U.S., the increase in the likelihood of retirement asset ownership for longer term Latin American immigrants was smaller than that of other immigrant groups.

Asian Immigrants

Of the three immigrant groups, the Asian model was the most similar to the native-born. Increases in education increased the likelihood of retirement asset ownership for Asian immigrants (as it did for the native-born), and both the native-born and Asian immigrants were less likely to own when there were children in the household. Age increased the likelihood of ownership until age 39, when the likelihood of ownership decreased with age. Other demographic variables, including gender, marriage, ethnicity and urban residence significantly affected the likelihood of ownership among the native-born but not among Asian immigrants.

Of the four groups, Asian immigrants were the most affected by financial variables. Increases in income substantially increased the likelihood of retirement asset ownership, as did homeownership. Asian immigrants were strongly impacted by employment related indicators; individuals who were working but did not have access to a retirement plan were 15 percentage points more likely to own retirement savings assets, and those with access to a employee sponsored plan were 42 percentage points more likely to own.

Acculturation related variables appeared to be important in predicting the likelihood of retirement asset ownership among Asian immigrants as well. For Asian immigrants, English usage at home increased the likelihood of ownership by 14 percentage points—more than twice that of Latin American immigrants (six percentage points). The impact of U.S. citizenship followed a similar pattern, increasing the likelihood of ownership among Asian immigrants by nine percentage points (vs. six percentage points for Latin American immigrants). U.S. tenure was also consistent with the theory that acculturation may play an important part in the ownership of retirement savings assets for Asian immigrants. Asian immigrants in the U.S. for at least 8 years were more likely than shorter-term immigrants to own retirement assets, but Latin American and European immigrants did not indicate the same increase in the likelihood of ownership until they had been in the U.S. for at least 12 years.

European Immigrants

The final immigrant group, European immigrants, looked somewhat similar to the native born in the way the financial and demographic variables affected the likelihood of retirement asset ownership. Unlike any of the other groups, European immigrants residing in urban areas were less likely to own than their rural-residing counterparts were. Age and education effects were similar to those of the other groups, but even more substantial for European immigrants relative to other groups. The higher rates of retirement asset ownership among this group may be related to distributional effects based on age and education; the greater relative impact of age and education combined with the older and more educated European immigrant population may magnify the effects of these two variables.

Financially, European immigrant ownership seemed less affected by income than any of the other groups. Conversely, homeownership increased the likelihood of retirement asset ownership for European immigrants more than for any other group. Employment increased the likelihood of retirement asset ownership, but only for those European immigrants with access to an employer sponsored retirement plan.

For European immigrants, the impacts of the acculturation variables were relatively large. While European immigrants in the U.S. less than 12 years owned retirement assets at the same level that recently arrived immigrants did, European immigrants in the U.S. longer than 12 years were more likely to own. These increases in the likelihood to own retirement assets for longer-term European immigrants were greater than the increases for longer term Latin American or Asian immigrants. Similarly, the impact of English usage on the likelihood of ownership was substantially larger for European immigrants than for the other immigrant groups. Again, distributional effects may compounded the impact of these variables; European immigrants were more frequently longer-term immigrants than Latin American or Asian immigrants, and more likely to speak English at home than either of these groups.

Discussion and Conclusion

Using data from the 2004 Survey of Income and Program Participation, multivariate analyses are used to examine differences in retirement saving between otherwise similar native born and foreign-born individuals. Results indicate that while there do not appear to be differences in the likelihood of ownership between European or Asian immigrants and the foreign-born, there do appear to be differences between Latin American immigrants and native-born in the likelihood to own retirement savings assets. Even though this research looks at immigrants from Latin American, Asian, and European areas independently, there are considerable differences in the cultural backgrounds of immigrants from within these areas. Among ethnic groups, there may be different cultural preferences in relationship to both saving in general and in the specific savings methods deemed desirable. Certainly, there is variation in the banking systems of different countries within the broad areas defined here; this may lead to different levels of experience in formal savings and different banking norms. Although the financial shock of immigration may have an impact on retirement savings, there may be differing propensities to save among immigrants from the same broad areas, but different countries within those areas. In addition, as is the case with many studies examining the foreign-born, the documentation status of foreign born individuals (as a barrier to access) and potential remittances to family in the home country (neither of which are available in the SIPP data) would help to more concretely examine the effects of access to American financial markets in general.

This research has many important implications. The first hypothesis, suggesting that immigration will negatively affect retirement savings, appears supported for Latin American immigrants, but not for Asian or European immigrants. Conversely, estimation of a model of general savings asset (savings accounts, CD or bond) ownership indicated retirement asset (401k/403b, IRA and Keogh) ownership was not more impacted by immigration than was the ownership of these more general savings assets, rejecting Hypothesis 2. However, there does appear to be substantial impacts attributable to immigration related variables; results suggest that while general savings asset ownership is more closely tied to actual immigration, retirement savings asset ownership is additionally influenced by ethnic identity and acculturation. The differences observed between the impact of immigration and immigration-related variables on retirement asset ownership and general savings asset ownership may have several explanations. While it may be that there are more available informal substitutes for formal retirement savings assets ownership than for general saving asset ownership, it appears more likely that acculturating factors (like those measured here) are greater barriers for entrance into the formal retirement assets market, even when controlling for employer-sponsored access.

Hypothesis 3, that factors indicating greater acculturation would positively affect the likelihood of retirement asset ownership, is well supported. Although U.S. tenure appeared less important when looking at the immigrant groups individually, English use increased the likelihood of ownership for all three groups, and U.S. citizenship has a positive impact on the likelihood of ownership for Latin American and Asian immigrants.

Latin American immigrant groups appear somewhat less affected, for better or worse, by variables in the model when compared to the other groups. Factors association with acculturation did increase Latin American immigrants likelihood to own retirement assets, but less so than these indicators did for Asian and European immigrants. This finding suggests that while acculturation may act to increase retirement asset ownership among Latin American immigrants, the disparity in ownership between Latin American immigrants and other groups may not be completely overcome with increased acculturation. We also saw evidence of distributional effects in the likelihood of Latin American immigrant ownership. Although income was a relatively strong predictor of ownership for Latin American immigrants when compared to other groups, the mean income of Latin American immigrants in the sample was roughly 60% of the mean income of the other immigrant groups. Increases in income would substantially increase the likelihood of ownership among Latin American immigrants, but very few immigrants have substantial incomes.

Of the three immigrant groups, Asian immigrants appeared the most similar in the way financial and demographic variables affected the likelihood of retirement asset ownership. Both financial and acculturation related variables substantially impact the ownership of Asian immigrants relative to the other groups. These finding suggest that while Asian immigrants are less likely to own retirement assets, positive financial events (increased income, purchase of a home, employment) and increased acculturation may act to mitigate negative effects considerably. It appears that Asian immigrants may not own retirement assets in large numbers initially, but financial success and increased acculturation substantially increase ownership.

The findings related to European immigrants appear to suggest a relationship between the idea of ‘settlement’ in the U.S. and the ownership of retirement assets. Unlike the Asian or Latin American immigrants, European immigrants are older, have longer U.S. tenure, more frequently own a home, and speak English at home; all variables that have relatively substantial effects on the likelihood of asset ownership for European immigrants. Unlike immigration from Asian or Latin American countries, European immigration has substantially slowed. Also unlike immigrants from Asian or Latin American countries, European immigrants less frequently have minority ethnic identities. What instead appears to increase retirement asset ownership is ‘settlement’: longer U.S. tenure, English usage, non-urban residence.

As predicted in the final hypothesis, individual modeling of the likelihood of ownership for each of the three immigrant groups examined here indicated that there are substantial differences in the factors that affect retirement asset ownership between groups. While many of the effects of demographic, acculturation and financial variables were in the same direction for all three groups, there were substantial difference in the significance and magnitude of the effects.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    Assumptions about the distribution of assets within the household may not hold for families from varying cultural backgrounds (Osili and Paulson 2006). Analyses using only the family head were conducted, with comparable results to those presented here.

  2. 2.

    The SIPP data for date of migration are by year of arrival, in 20 categories. These were reduced to six based on statistical similarity in the model.

  3. 3.

    Other immigrant groups are identified in the SIPP data, but sample sizes were too small for reliable analyses and were therefore not used in this analysis resulting in a less than 1% reduction in the number of observations.

  4. 4.

    Individual weights (SIPP variable WPFINWGT) are used to calculate descriptive statistics.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Family and Consumer Science DepartmentIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA

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