Social Security Turns 78
President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law 78 years ago. It is the major source of income for elderly beneficiaries who paid into the system throughout their lives; on average, it accounts for two-thirds of income for recipients over age 65.
As of December 2012, there are almost 58 million Social Security recipients, including 37 million retired workers and 8 million disabled workers. According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty. In 2011, Social Security kept 21.4 million beneficiaries out of poverty: 1.1 million children, 5.8 million adults (ages 18-64), and 14.5 million elderly beneficiaries. Moreover, absent Social Security benefits, 44 percent of the elderly would be poor. When you factor in the program, their poverty rate falls to 9 percent.
Social Security benefits, on average, are fairly modest – about $1,200 a month for retired workers and survivors and about $1,100 for disabled workers. Only 8.8 percent of retired workers get more than $2,000 a month. By international standards the benefits are fairly low; the US is in 30th place among the 34 OECD member countries in terms of Social Security benefits for median worker as a percentage of earnings.