Women and Social Security

As research by IWPR and others shows, the current Social Security program is a mainstay for women. Adult women are 57 percent (20.7 million) of all beneficiaries aged 65 and older including retirees, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers.  Women are more likely to rely on Social Security because they have fewer alternative sources of income, often outlive their husbands, and are more likely to be left to rear children when their husbands die or become permanently disabled. Moreover, due to the Great Recession many women  lost home equity and savings to failing markets. Older women—and older low income populations in general—have become more economically vulnerable and reliant on Social Security benefits.

IWPR produces and disseminates materials to keep women involved in the ongoing debate on Social Security and to ensure that women’s concerns are addressed in any changes to the system that might take place. An IWPR report shows women aged 65 and older receive two-thirds of their income from Social Security, on average. In 2009, 29 percent of older women had no sources of income other than Social Security alone. Social Security lifts more than 8.6 million women and 5.7 million men aged 65 and older out of poverty.

Between 2010-2012, IWPR engaged in a collaborative project to educate and mobilize women’s organizations to safeguard Social Security. Working with the National Organization for Women (NOW) as co-leaders of the National Council of Women’s Organizations’ Task Force on Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES), IWPR strives to help women’s groups convey accurate information about Social Security and increase their participation in the political debate about Social Security’s future as well as in campaigns to preserve and improve Social Security benefits. A central goal of the project was to monitor media coverage on Social Security between 2010-2011 and to provide a balanced perspective recognizing the importance of benefit adequacy and financial solvency as well as the special importance of Social Security to women.


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