Social Security Keeps 20 Million Americans Out of Poverty: A State-By-State Analysis

 Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty. Without Social Security, according to the latest available Census data (for 2008), 19.8 million more Americans would be poor. Although most of those kept out of poverty by Social Security are elderly, nearly a third are under age 65, including 1.1 million children. Depending on their design, reductions in Social Security benefits could significantly increase poverty, particularly among the elderly.

Almost 90 percent of people aged 65 and older receive some of their family income from Social Security. [1] Without Social Security benefits, 45.2 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal. With Social Security benefits, only 9.7 percent are poor. Some 13.2 million elderly Americans are lifted out of poverty by Social Security.

Social Security is important for children and their families as well as for the elderly. About 6 million children under age 18 (8 percent of all U.S. children) lived in families that received income from Social Security in 2008, according to Census data. Over 3 million children received their own benefits as dependents of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. Others lived with parents or relatives who received Social Security benefits. In all, 1.1 million children are lifted out of poverty by Social Security.

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