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Q & A With Paul Van de Water: Social Security Helps Reduce Poverty

August 17, 2010 at 7:11 PM
BY
CBPP

Today we sat down with Paul Van de Water, senior fellow, to discuss how Social Security helps to reduce poverty.

[audio: http://www.cbpp.org/files/08-17-10-Soc-Sec-Pov-final.mp3| titles=Podcast: What Seniors Should Know About the New Health Reform Law ]

Paul, you recently authored a paper that found that Social Security lifts almost 20 million Americans out of poverty. Who are these Americans that are helped?

Here’s the breakdown: Social Security lifts more than 1 million children, more than 5 million adults, and 13 million elderly Americans out of poverty.

From those numbers, it’s clear that – despite what some might think – Social Security helps other age groups, in addition to the elderly. How many children receive Social Security payments?

Over 3 million children receive their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. And about 6 million children – that’s about 8 percent of all children in the country –  live in families that receive income from Social Security.  As I said earlier, of those about 1 million are lifted out of poverty by Social Security.

Is Social Security effective at reducing poverty across the country or only in a few states?

Social Security reduces poverty dramatically in every state in the nation.  Without Social Security, the poverty rate for those aged 65 and over would EXCEED 40 percent in almost all of the states.  With Social Security, the elderly poverty rate in the large majority of states is less than 10 percent.  In California alone, Social Security lifts over 1 million elderly people out of poverty.  In our own DC-Maryland- Virginia region, the program keeps more than 400,000 elderly from being poor.

What’s the bottom line?

Social Security has made a very large contribution to reducing poverty, and cutting Social Security benefits could substantially increase poverty, particularly among the elderly.

You can download a podcast of this conversation here or on iTunes.