Social Security, which turned 83 this week, provides about half of family income for about half of Americans older than 65. For many, it is the vast majority of that income.
“The percentage of families in which Social Security benefits account for at least half of their retirement income rises to 70% for blacks and Hispanics,” Alan Barber, a policy analyst at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote in a blog published this week.
“Benefits are roughly 90% of income for one in four of those 65 or older.”
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Social Security has been successful in terms of administrative costs and by keeping millions of people out of poverty, Barber noted. “The program is particularly important to people who have earned the least over the years and have fewer alternative sources of income.”
In particular, people of color, women and folks at the lower ends of the income distribution rely on Social Security more than other groups.
Barber and his co-author David Rosnick, a CEPR economist, used data from the 2015 March CPS to determine the share of Social Security income for groups 65 and older by race, marital status and gender.
They found that in aggregate, Social Security benefits were the largest share of income for the least advantaged recipients, those in the first and second quintiles: 80.8% and 79.4%, respectively.