WASHINGTON, DC—New research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that reliance on Social Security for retirement income has increased dramatically since 1999—particularly among men. Contributing factors include loss of assets during the most recent recession, as well as shifts toward higher risk retirement plans.
“Social Security is more needed than ever,” said Heidi Hartmann, President of IWPR and lead author of the report,
Social Security Especially Vital to Women and People of Color, Men Increasingly Reliant
. “It has served as the bedrock of retirement income for several generations of Americans. Now, as a result of the Great Recession and with the value of assets down— including homes, pension accumulations, and savings—Social Security serves as our Rock of Gibraltar. Social Security is the one income stream that is secure and does not fluctuate with the marketplace.”
Between 1999 and 2009, the number of men aged 65 and older relying on Social Security for at least 80 percent of their incomes increased by 48 percent (from 3.8 million to 5.7 million) to equal more than a third of all men aged 65 and older in 2009. The increase for comparable women was 26 percent (from 8.2 million to 10.3 million) to equal half of older women in 2009.
Minorities tend to be more reliant on Social Security than whites are, as they are considerably less likely than whites to have asset or pension income. Women benefit disproportionately from Social Security because the program is designed to pay proportionally higher benefits to lower earning workers and women tend to earn less than men. Women also benefit from the program’s family benefits.
In 2009, Social Security helped more than 14 million Americans aged 65 and older stay above the poverty line. Without access to Social Security, 58 percent of women and 48 percent of men above the age of 75 would be living below the poverty line.
The study is based on IWPR analysis of data from the 1978 to 2010 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements collected jointly by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
About the Institute for Women’s Policy Research
IWPR conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and their families, promote public dialogue, and strengthen communities and societies. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women’s studies and public policy programs at George Washington University. In January 2011, IWPR launched the Social Security Media Watch Project to
monitor, analyze, and respond to inaccurate media reports on Social Security. On the project blog,
, IWPR responds to incorrect information and statements in the news, bias in coverage, as well as glaring omissions in media reports.