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Census Data Reaffirms Critical Anti-Poverty Impact of Social Security

NWLC’s analysis of U.S. Census poverty, income, and health insurance data released on September 12, 2017 found that women’s poverty rates were once again higher than the poverty rates for men last year. It also showed that women working full time, year round continue to be paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.  And it shows the success of the Affordable Care Act: nearly 90 percent of non-elderly women were insured in 2016.

In addition, Census’ report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure reaffirmed the importance of Social Security as an anti-poverty program for women and their families.  Specifically, Social Security lifted more than 26.1 million people out of poverty in 2016 – more than any other program or benefit.  This includes:

  • Nearly 17.1 million people 65 and older;
  • More than 7.5 million adults 18-64; and
  • Almost 1.5 million children.

Other data has shown that women rely more on income from Social Security than men do.    On average, female beneficiaries 65 and older receive 58 percent of their family income from Social Security, compared to 53 percent for male beneficiaries 65 and older.  And for more than one in four female beneficiaries 65 and older (27 percent), Social Security is virtually the only source of income (90 percent or more) – while just over two in ten male beneficiaries (21 percent) rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.

Despite Social Security, older women remain at greater risk of poverty than older men. The poverty rate for elderly women was 10.6 percent in 2016, a .3 percentage point increase from 2015.  Women made up nearly two-thirds of all poor people 65 and older.

Social Security is a critically important program, especially for women. The most recent Census data reminds us why our focus should be on strengthening Social Security, especially for the most vulnerable.