Key Facts

  • The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $14,270 per year.
  • Social Security is virtually the only source of income for more than one in four female beneficiaries 65 and older.
  • Without Social Security, more than two in five women 65 and older would have been poor in 2016.
  • Social Security lifted more than 1.1 million children out of poverty in 2016.

Social Security benefits are lower for women than for men.

  • The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $14,270 per year, compared to about $18,375 for men 65 and older.

Women rely even more on income from Social Security than men do.

  • On average, women beneficiaries 65 and older receive 58 percent of their family income from Social Security, compared to 53 percent for men beneficiaries 65 and older.
  • For more than one in four women beneficiaries 65 and older (27 percent), Social Security is virtually the only source of income (90 percent or more). Just over two in ten men beneficiaries 65 and older (21 percent) rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
  • The percentage of women beneficiaries who rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income increases sharply with age: from about 20 percent for women 65-69 to 36 percent for women 80 and older. Men beneficiaries’ reliance on Social Security also increases with age, but to a lesser extent: from 16 percent for men 65-69 to 28 percent for men 80 and older.

Unmarried women rely more on income from Social Security than married women do.

  • On average, unmarried women beneficiaries 65 and older, including beneficiaries who are widowed, divorced, or never married, receive 63 percent of their family income from Social Security, compared to 53 percent of married women beneficiaries.
  • For 34 percent of unmarried women beneficiaries 65 and older, Social Security is virtually the only source of income (90 percent or more), compared to 20 percent of married women beneficiaries 65 and older.

Social Security is a critical anti-poverty program for women and their families.

  • Social Security lifted nearly 22 million people out of poverty in 2016, including:
    • Nearly 15.3 million people 65 and older, including nearly 9 million women;
    • More than 5.5 million adults 18-64, including more than 2.8 million women; and
    • More than 1.1 million children.
  • Social Security dramatically reduced poverty rates for older women in 2016:
    • From more than two in five (43.7 percent) to 10.6 percent for all women 65 and older; and
    • More than six in ten (62.5 percent) to 18.8 percent for women 65 and older living alone.

Despite Social Security, older women remain at greater risk of poverty than older men.

  • Women made up nearly two-thirds (63.1 percent) of all people in poverty 65 and older in 2016.
  • The poverty rate for women 65 and older was 10.6 percent, compared to 7.6 percent for men 65 and older.
  • The poverty rate for women 65 and older living alone was 18.1 percent, compared to 15.6 percent for men 65 and older living alone.
  • Poverty rates were particularly high, at about one in five, for Black (20.6 percent) and Latina (19.8 percent), and Native (22.4 percent) women 65 and older.
  • Poverty rates were lower at 8.2 percent for white, non-Hispanic women 65 and older, and 13.0 percent for Asian women 65 and older. By comparison, just 5.8 percent of white, non-Hispanic older men lived in poverty in 2016.