Social Security ensures important protections for all Americans, but it is of vital importance to women. Here is why:
- Women, on average, live longer than men, and Social Security provides benefits every month no matter how long a person lives.
- Women who reached 65 in 2004 are expected to live, on average, an additional twenty years.
- Women represent about 70 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries aged 85 and older, the fastest growing segment of the population.
- Women, on average, earn less than men, and Social Security contains a progressive benefit formula, which provides lower earners with a higher rate of return on their Social Security contributions.
- Women earn, on average, about 77 percent of the amounts earned by men.
- The median earnings of women working full-time in 2002 were $30,203, compared to $39,429 for men.
- Women are more likely to be dependent on husbands than vice versa and to have custody of children after divorce, and Social Security provides dependent benefits to current spouses, divorced spouses, elderly widows, widows with children, and the children themselves in the event that the worker dies, is disabled or retires.
- Social Security's dependent benefits are add-on benefits, so current spouses and divorced spouses each receive the benefit, without the benefits of one reducing the benefits of the other or of the earner.
- Social Security benefits are a matter of right, so they are not the subject of battles in the course of a divorce.
- Social Security benefits, on average, make up a greater percentage of the income of women than of men.
- For unmarried women (including widows) age 65 and older, Social Security comprises 52 percent of their total income, compared to 38 percent of unmarried men, and 35 percent of elderly couples.
- Social Security is the sole source of retirement income for almost 33 percent of unmarried women. For African-American women, the percentage is almost 40 percent.
- In 2002, 21 percent of women aged 65 or older received private pension benefits, either as a retired worker or a surviving spouse, compared to 28 percent of men, and those women who do receive private pensions generally receive a lower benefit than men because women earn less.
- Without Social Security, six out of ten unmarried women (whether divorced, widowed, or never-married) who are age 65 or older, would live in poverty.