Social Security is critical to the retirement security of women for three reasons: women earn less during their lifetimes, have less in savings because of that wage inequality, and hold jobs that are less likely to provide them with a pension.
As a result, Social Security provides more than 60 percent of total income for women ages 65 and older, on average. Fifty percent of women 66 and older rely on Social Security for at least 80 percent of their income. The reliance is even more stark for unmarried women age 65+, including widows: 46% rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income
Without Social Security, half of all women 75 and older (and one-third of women 65-74) would be living below the poverty line.
Feminist Majority has long supported strengthening Social Security and making the benefit structure more fair to women, such as:
- Eliminating the “motherhood penalty” by granting caregiver credits, in the nature of military service credits, for a number of years spent out of the workforce or with limited work because of caregiving responsibilities. The average woman has twelve years out of the workforce because of caregiving responsibilities, and these “zero years” dramatically decrease her benefits at retirement.
- Increasing the divorced spouse benefit to 75% of the higher earner spouse, and making the widow’s benefit equal to 75% of the spouses’ combined benefits (unless 100% of the higher earner benefit is greater).
- Ensure that widows are not penalized by their husbands’ decision to retire early.
- Increase eligibility for divorce benefits by requiring only seven years of marriage (instead of ten).
- Lifting the earnings cap on Social Security wages.
Feminist Majority opposes increasing the retirement age, and opposes any change in the calculation formula for “cost of living” adjustments that would reduce benefits.
Feminist Majority is part of the Older Women’s Economic Security task force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, working to ensure that social security will be there for generations to come.
U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/publications/pubs-cps.html
U.S. Social Security Administration. 2010. Social Security Is Important to Women.
Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) www.iwpr.org
Strengthening Social Security for Women, A Report from the Working Conference on Women and Social Security, 1999 http://www.now.org/issues/economic/social/1999.pdf
“Women and Caregiving: Facts and Figures,” Family Caregiver Alliance. http://www.caregiver.org/caregiver/jsp/content_node.jsp?nodeid=892 citing the Social Security Administration Women and Social Security (Fact Sheet). Washington, DC. (2002, February).