NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Despite Social Security, Some Seniors Live In Poverty

September 24, 1999

Nearly half of Americans age 65 or older would live below the poverty line were it not for Social Security, according to a study of Census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Women, in particular, are dependent on their monthly checks.

There are several reasons for this. The formula used for calculating Social Security benefits reduces those benefits when a spouse dies. And many older women have lower benefits because they have never worked outside the home, or worked only sporadically at low-paying jobs.

According to data from the Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration:

  • Among African-American women age 65 and older, the poverty rate was 28.9 percent in 1997.
  • Among all elderly women, the poverty rate was 13.1 percent -- compared with 7 percent for the men.
  • But it was 18 percent for widows and 11.4 percent for widowers.

Source: Greg Hitt, "Old Women's Hope Fades for Social Security Overhaul," Wall Street Journal, September 24, 1999.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues