Social Security rules for married people aren’t just complex and opaque. They’re sexist. What’s more, they’re based on the “sexual possession [of females] by males,” Laurence Kotlikoff, economics professor at Boston University, argues in a ThinkAdvisor interview.
The goal is “to keep women as chattel,” says Kotlikoff, recognized by The Economist as one of the world’s 25 most influential economists.
“There’s some underlying obsession about making sure that the woman is property and when she marries you, she’s yours forever,” he maintains in the interview.
Women are the major recipients of child-in-care spousal benefits, spousal benefits, divorcee spousal benefits, widow benefits and divorcee widow’s benefits, but because they earn less than men, the rules — which apply to both genders — are more likely to wreak financial damage on women, Kotlikoff insists.
He has even drawn up a list of what he considers 20 sexist Social Security rules and provisions. In the interview, he discusses some of them.
Many of the rules aim to control women by “keeping [them] at home and not out working, as a way to keep the wife from having contact with other males,” Kotlikoff contends.
Indeed, the professor is calling for a congressional commission “to investigate the sexist nature of the Social Security program.
“The whole thing needs to be restructured so that each spouse has their own account and the records are split 50/50 between them,” he proposes.
Kotlikoff likes to write about and call attention to outlandish Social Security rules and inequitable cases in hopes that the administration will make needed corrections.
The bestselling author’s newest book is “Money Magic: An Economist’s Secrets to More Money, Less Risk and a Better Life.”
Kotlikoff is the founder and president of financial planning software firm Economic Security Planning, offering the online tools Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi, which calculate claiming strategies.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Kotlikoff, who was speaking by phone from the Boston area.
Among other pointed — or shall we say blunt — comments, he maintains: “The government set up this system to help men bribe women, in effect, [and] to bid for chattel women.”
Here are highlights of the interview:
THINKADVISOR: One doesn’t usually associate Social Security benefits with sexism. Please explain why you do.
LAURENCE KOTLIKOFF: This is not just about sexism, per se. This is about sex. The rules are about keeping your woman … as your chattel, penalizing her for running off with someone else.
The system is sexist, and the sexism is based not just on misogyny but also on sexual possession by males. … It’s trying to keep women as chattel and controlling their bodies more than it is antagonism toward females.
This is shocking!
I think there are deep sociological factors going on here. There’s some underlying obsession about making sure that the woman is property and that when she marries you, she’s yours forever and doesn’t have sex with anybody else.
Keeping her at home and not working is a way to keep her out of contact with other males.
Is that why the Social Security Administration tells women “You have to be married to a guy for 10 years before you can divorce him and get Social Security divorce benefits or divorcees’ widows’ benefits?”
It’s so that the wife doesn’t sleep with somebody else. The irony is that she could be sleeping with somebody else for the entire marriage, and the spouses could even be separated physically, but she could still qualify [for the benefits].
This is a way to keep the woman at home and have her available and unable to meet somebody else and run off.
So [the administration has] controlled the female to the extent that they could: “Let’s penalize her some other way.”
Are these rules just for women?
No. They’re for both men and women — symmetric — but because women are lower earners, the effect is asymmetric. Women that have babies and bring them up are going to be especially lower earners.
What can be done to make the system fair to women?