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Social Security Lifts 1.7 Million Children Out of Poverty

Eighty-three years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. To mark the occasion, we’ve updated our backgrounder on Social Security, a vital program to which nearly every American contributes and from which nearly every American ultimately benefits.

Though most people understand how much elderly Americans need and value Social Security, fewer understand its importance for children and their families. About 6 million children under age 18 lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2017. That number included nearly 3 million children who received their own benefits.

Children can qualify for benefits if a breadwinning parent dies, becomes disabled, or retires. Social Security also indirectly helps children who live with a parent or other relative who receives benefits, which can help the whole family stay afloat — particularly in cases of premature death or life-changing illness or injury.

Social Security is one of the biggest child poverty fighters of any program, lifting 1.7 million children out of poverty in 2015 using the comprehensive Supplemental Poverty Measure. Only the refundable tax credits for working families (the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit) and SNAP (formerly foods stamps) lift more children out of poverty, as the chart shows.