Social Security Reform: A Budget Neutral Approach to Reducing Older Women's Disproportional Risk of Poverty
AbstractPerhaps the single greatest achievement of social policy in the United States over the last three decades has been reducing poverty in old age. The transition from work to retirement is no longer economically perilous for the vast majority of older American workers. For most married couples, the risk of falling into poverty even several years after retirement is small. But when one partner of the marriage dies, the survivor faces another much more risky economic transition. The single greatest risk of falling into poverty in old age now comes after the death of a spouse, as the survivor faces life after marriage. And this risk disproportionately affects older women, who are nearly three times as likely as older men to be widowed (49 percent to 14 percent) and can expect to remain widowed an average of 17 years. Here we document the disproportionate risk of poverty faced by such survivors and show that the Social Security system in the United States has been much less successful in protecting single older people from poverty, especially single older women, than government-administered social security systems in other post-industrialized countries. We argue that this lack of success stems in part from the failure of the Social Security program to transform the basis for its payout rules from a "traditional" one-earner family model to a model more consistent with today's families in which both the husband and wife work. We then offer a budget neutral plan to redistribute some of the benefits a married couple receive over their lifetime from the years they are both alive to the years following the death of a spouse, which we argue would substantially reduce the risk of poverty faced by older women.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University in its series Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs with number 2.
Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: Nov 1994
Date of revision:
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Find related papers by JEL classification:
- H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
- I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
- J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
- J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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- James P. Smith, 1997. "The Changing Economic Circumstances of the Elderly: Income, Wealth, and Social Security," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 8, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
- Kathleen McGarry & Robert F. Schoeni, 2003. "Medicare Gaps and Widow Poverty," Working Papers wp065, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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