NWLC Data Underscores Need to Improve Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Women of Color & People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today released a new factsheet underscoring the importance of improving the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to help advance gender, racial, and disability justice, which comes after the announcement that SSI and Social Security recipients will see a modest increase in their benefits in 2024.

“While this modest increase in benefits is important, there is an urgent need to make improvements to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income, particularly for older women and women of color, who are more likely to rely on these programs due to systemic inequalities throughout their lives,” said Amy Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Income Security at the National Women’s Law Center.

The NWLC factsheet shows that women of color and people with disabilities heavily rely on SSI:

  • Among women and girls who received SSI in 2021, 41 percent identified as white, non-Hispanic, 27.9 percent as Black, and 25.6 percent as Latina.
  • Older women make up the majority (65 percent) of elderly SSI recipients
  • The vast majority (85.5 percent) of SSI recipients were eligible on the basis of a severe disability, including blindness (although many are also eligible on the basis of age).

The factsheet highlights how SSI’s outdated and complicated rules limit the program’s effectiveness at reducing poverty:

  • The maximum monthly SSI payment is less than the federal poverty line.
  • A person solely living on SSI would not be able to afford any safe, decent apartment without rental assistance in any housing market in the United States.
  • 57 percent of SSI recipients had no income other than their SSI payments.

The factsheet also includes data showing that a high share of women of color and disabled people in poverty:

  • Poverty rates for Black women (18.8 percent), Latinas (17 percent), and Native women (21 percent) were much higher than the poverty rates for white, non-Hispanic women (8.9 percent) and white, non-Hispanic men (7.1 percent).
  • Poverty rates for disabled adults ages 18 to 64 (24.9 percent) is more than twice the rate of adults without a disability (9.3 percent).

Supplemental Security Income should be significantly strengthened and improved to ensure that it fulfills its purpose of providing a basic level of income to those who need it most.

Click here to read NWLC’s full factsheet, titled: SSI Supports Older and Disabled Women with Very Low Incomes. Improving SSI Would Advance Gender, Racial, and Disability Justice.

For more information, see Social Security Is Vital to Older Women’s Financial Security.