Thursday, February 24, 2005
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Robert Greenstein
Executive Director

Iris J. Lav
Deputy Director

Board of Directors

David de Ferranti, Chair
The World Bank

John R. Kramer, Vice Chair
Tulane Law School

Henry J. Aaron
Brookings Institution

Ken Apfel
University of Texas

Barbara B. Blum
Columbia University

Marian Wright Edelman
Children’s Defense Fund

James O. Gibson
Center for the Study of Social Policy

Beatrix Hamburg, M.D.
Cornell Medical College

Frank Mankiewicz
Hill and Knowlton

Richard P. Nathan
Nelson A Rockefeller
Institute of Government

Marion Pines
Johns Hopkins University

Sol Price
Chairman, The Price Company (Retired)

Robert D. Reischauer
Urban Institute

Audrey Rowe
AR Consulting

Susan Sechler
German Marshall Fund

Juan Sepulveda, Jr.
The Common Experience/
San Antonio

William Julius Wilson
Harvard University

Report Includes State-by-State Data

Press Release: PDF
Report: HTM | PDF

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Social Security benefits raise nearly 13 million seniors age 65 and older above the poverty line, a new Center report finds.  The report provides data on the poverty-reducing effects of Social Security in each state.

“In the average state, Social Security benefits are the difference between being poor and not being poor for roughly a quarter of a million seniors,” said Arloc Sherman, senior researcher at the Center and the report’s lead author.  In both Florida and California, Social Security lifts more than a million of the state’s seniors out of poverty. 

The figures in the report reflect a three-year average for the period from 2000 through 2002 (the latest year for which these data are available).  The poverty line currently is $9,060 for a single elderly individual and $11,418 for an elderly couple.

Poverty Rate Cut from Nearly One in Two to One in Twelve

If Social Security income is not counted, nearly half (46.8 percent) of all elderly Americans have incomes below the poverty line.  Social Security reduces the poverty rate among the nation’s elderly to one in twelve (8.7 percent).

This effectiveness in reducing poverty is true for every state in the nation.  For example, Social Security cuts the elderly poverty rate from 50.2 percent to 8.7 percent in Florida, from 48.0 percent to 5.1 percent in Idaho, and from 37.0 percent to 5.0 percent in Connecticut.

“One of Social Security’s primary goals is to reduce poverty among the elderly, so it is worthwhile to examine how the program is doing in this area, especially at a time when Social Security’s future is the subject of public debate,” noted Sherman. “The program is extremely successful in accomplishing this goal,” Sherman added.

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs.  It is supported primarily by foundation grants.