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Social Security’s Broad Reach

As we noted yesterday, we’ve updated our Top Ten Facts about Social Security to mark the program’s upcoming 80th birthday.  Three of the facts highlight the diversity of Americans who benefit from Social Security.

Fact #5: Children have an important stake in Social Security.

Social Security is important for children and their families as well as for the elderly.

About 6 million children under age 18 (8 percent of all U.S. children) lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2013.  That number included over 3.1 million children who received their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers, as well as others who lived with parents or relatives who received Social Security benefits.

Social Security lifted 1.2 million children out of poverty in 2013.

Fact #8: Social Security is particularly important for minorities.

Social Security is a particularly important source of income for groups with low earnings and less opportunity to save and earn pensions, including African Americans and Hispanics.  Among beneficiaries aged 65 and older, Social Security represents 90 percent or more of income for 44 percent of Asian Americans, 46 percent of African Americans, and 53 percent of Hispanics, compared with 35 percent of whites.

African American and Hispanic workers benefit substantially from Social Security because they have higher disability rates and lower lifetime earnings than whites, on average.   Hispanic workers also have longer average life expectancies than whites, which means they have more years to collect retirement benefits. 

Fact #9: Social Security is especially beneficial for women.

Because women tend to earn less than men, take more time out of the paid workforce, live longer, accumulate less savings, and receive smaller pensions, Social Security is especially important for them.  Women constitute 56 percent of Social Security beneficiaries aged 62 and older and 66 percent of beneficiaries aged 85 and older.  In addition, women make up 97 percent of Social Security survivor beneficiaries.

Women benefit disproportionately from the program’s inflation-protected benefits (because they tend to live longer than men), its progressive formula for computing benefits (because they tend to have lower earnings), and its benefits for spouses and survivors.

Tomorrow’s post in this series will focus on how Social Security helps elderly Americans.