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Retirement & Social Security

About Retirement & Social Security

IWPR is a leading national resource on women’s income security—especially the economic security of women in retirement and the possible effects of Social Security changes on women.

Research from IWPR has shown the current Social Security program is a mainstay for women, and these findings have been supported by research from other organizations. Women are more likely to rely on Social Security because they have fewer alternative sources of income, often outlive their husbands, and are more likely to be left to rear children when their husbands die or become disabled. Moreover, due to the recession, many women have lost home equity and savings to failing markets, leaving them more economically vulnerable and dependent on Social Security benefits. Adult women are 51 percent (28 million) of all beneficiaries, including retirees, the disabled, and survivors of deceased or disabled workers. IWPR’s research shows that women aged 65 and over receive two-thirds of their income from Social Security on average. In 2009, 29 percent of older women lived on Social Security alone and the program lifted more than 14 million women and men aged 65 or older out of poverty.

In 2009, 29 percent of older women lived on Social Security alone and the program lifted more than 14 million women and men aged 65 or older out of poverty.

A 2010 survey developed by IWPR, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, found that many Americans, especially women, felt bleak about their prospects for retirement security in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Almost half (47 percent) of all women surveyed said they had little or no confidence that their resources would last throughout their retirement years, compared with 35 percent of men. Only 25 percent of women and 35 percent of men believed they were saving enough for retirement. Especially in the recent economic crisis and slow recovery, American women and men value the support Social Security provides–to such a great extent that they do not mind paying taxes so that the program can continue to help secure the economic stability of retired persons, the disabled, and families of deceased workers.

In addition, IWPR has been working on collaborative projects to educate and mobilize women’s organizations to safeguard and strengthen the Social Security system. Working with the National Organization for Women (NOW) as co-leaders of the National Council of Women’s Organizations’ Task Force on Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES), IWPR strives to increase the participation of women’s groups in the political debate about Social Security and to disseminate accurate information about the system’s future. In May 2012, IWPR, the NOW Foundation, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare released a report outlining recommendations for affordably modernizing Social Security, such as extending benefits to same-sex couples and increasing benefits for widows.

Resources

Women and Social Security

Social Security Media Watch Project Blog

Social Security and the Changing Economic Role of Women --PowerPoint Presentation

Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Who Are Social Security Beneficiaries? (Updated)
by Ashley English and Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (March 2010)

 

Social Security: Vital to Retirement Security for 35 Million Women and Men
by Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., and Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (February 2010)

#D487, Briefing Paper, 10 pages
$5.00
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Women and Social Security: Benefit Types and Eligibility
by Ashley English and Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (February 2010)

#D488, Briefing Paper, 9 pages
$5.00
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Women and Entitlements
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (January 2009)

 

Why Americans Worry About Retirement Security, and Why Women Worry More Than Men
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D., Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., and Claudia Williams (April 2008)

This summary excerpts findings from a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Women at Greater Risk of Economic Insecurity: A Gender Analysis of the Rockefeller Foundation's American Worker Survey. It draws out survey results that show how insecure Americans feel about their retirement income and why women are more anxious than men.

 

From Work to Retirement: Tracking Changes in Women's Poverty Status
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (January 2008)

 

The Economic Security of Older Women and Men in the United States
by Tori Finkle, Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (October 2007)

#D480, Briefing Paper, 8 pages
$5.00
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Women and Social Security: Benefit Types and Eligibility
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (June 2005)

 

Who Are Social Security Beneficiaries?
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D. (May 2005)

 
Preview not available

Six Key Facts on Women and Social Security
by (May 2005)

As research by IWPR and others show, the current social security is a mainstay for women. Women are 57% of all adult beneficiaries, including retirees, the disabled, and the survivors of deceased workers. Twenty-five million adult women receive social security checks every month.

 

Gender and Economic Security in Retirement
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (April 2003)

Gender and Economic Security in Retirement is the result of on-going research conducted at the Institute for Women's Policy Research to analyze the economic sta- tus of women and men as they age. The goal of this proj- ect is to make policymakers and the public aware of the economic issues facing older women in comparison with older men.

#D456, Report, 35 pages
$10.00
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Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Women and Men in Retirement
by Heidi Hartmann, Sunhwa Lee (April 2003)

This briefing paper uses the Current Population Survey to focus on four major sources of income for persons aged 50 and older--earnings, Social Security, pensions, and assets--and shows that during retirement, Social Security is the most universal and the largest source of income for both women and men.

Briefing paper
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Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Women and Men in Retirement
by Heidi Hartmann, Sunhwa Lee (April 2003)

This Briefing Paper examines major sources of income for older Americans—earnings, Social Security, pensions and assets—by gender and marital status. It shows that during retirement, Social Security is the most common and the largest source of income for both women and men. Approximately 90 percent of women and men 65 and older receive income from Social Security. During the retirement years, however, women face greater financial insecurity than men. Women tend to marry men who are older than themselves and live longer than men. As a result, women are much more likely than men to be widowed and live alone, making them highly vulnerable to economic insecurity. Having less access to other sources of income, women rely on Social Security even more than men do.

Briefing Paper
$5.00
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Preview not available

Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Men and Women in Retirement
by Heidi Hartmann and Sunhwa Lee (April 2003)

This briefing paper examines major sources of income for older Americans-earnings, Social Security, pensions and assets- by gender and marital status. It shows that during retirement, social security is the most common and the largest source of income for both women and men. Approximately 90 percent of women and men 65 and older receive income from social security. During retirement years, however, women face greater financial insecurity than men. Women tend to marry men who are older than themselves and live longer than men. As a result, women are much more likely than men to be widowed and live alone, making them highly vulnerable to economic insecurity. Having less access to other sources of income, women rely on social security even more than men do. The study is based on the data from the 1999-2001 March Current Population Survey (CPS) collected by the census bureau. The March CPS is the primary source of detailed information on income in the United States, as it gathers annual information on more than 50 sources of income including earnings, Social Security payments, pension income, and other government cash and non-cash benefits. We combine data from three years in order to secure sufficient numbers of observations for different categories of older women and men. Analyses of earnings and income sources apply to the calendar years 1998, 1999, and 2000.

 

Social Security: The Largest Source of Income for Both Women and Men in Retirement
by Heidi Hartmann, Sunhwa Lee (March 2003)

This Briefing Paper examines major sources of income for older Americans—earnings, Social Security, pensions and assets—by gender and marital status. It shows that during retirement, Social Security is the most common and the largest source of income for both women and men. Approximately 90 percent of women and men 65 and older receive income from Social Security. During the retirement years, however, women face greater financial insecurity than men. Women tend to marry men who are older than themselves and live longer than men. As a result, women are much more likely than men to be widowed and live alone, making them highly vulnerable to economic insecurity. Having less access to other sources of income, women rely on Social Security even more than men do.

Briefing Paper
$5.00
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Preview not available

Beyond 50: A View of Economic Security in the States
by Sunhwa Lee, Ph.D., and Lois Shaw, Ph.D. (January 2002)

Report can also be accessed through the AARP website at http://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2002/aresearch-import-297.html

 

The Gender Gap in Pension Coverage: What Does the Future Hold?(Final Report)
by Lois Shaw, Ph.D. and Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (December 2001)

This report documents pension coverage among male and female employees and examines voluntary and involuntary reasons why women and men do not participate in pension plans. The good news is that women are participating in pension plans in greater numbers, and, for women working full-time, near equality with men has been achieved. Part-time workers (who are disproportionately women), however, remain much less likely to participate in employer-sponsored pension plans. Less than a third of part-time workers participate in a pension plan. The largest difference in participation between female and male employees occurs for older workers (aged 45- 64), with 35 percent of women saying they work too few hours to participate in their company’s plan compared with 20 percent of men. Overall, older female employees are less likely to expect to have a pension in retirement from any source than are older male workers; 36 percent of male employees lack a pension from any employer compared with 44 percent of female employees.

#D447, Report, 22 pages
$10.00
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The Gender Gap in Pension Coverage: What Does the Future Hold?
by Lois Shaw, PhD and Catherine Hill, PhD (May 2001)

This report documents pension coverage among male and female employees and examines voluntary and involuntary reasons why women and men do not participate in pension plans. The good news is that women are participating in pension plans in greater numbers and, for women working full-time, near equality with men has been achieved. Part-time workers (who are disproportionately women), however, remain much less likely to participate in employer- sponsored pension plans. Less than a third of part-time workers participate in a pension plan. The largest difference in participation between female and male employees occurs for older workers (aged 45-64), with 35 percent of women saying they work too few hours to participate in their company’s plan compared with 20 percent of men. Overall, older female employees are less likely to expect to have a pension in retirement from any source than are older male workers; 36 percent of male employees lack a pension from any employer compared with 44 percent of female employees.

#E507, 20 pages
$10.00
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The Gender Gap in Pension Coverage: Women Working Full-Time Are Catching Up, But Part-Time Workers Have Been Left Behind
by Lois Shaw, Ph.D., and Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (March 2001)

The good news is that women are participating in pension plans in greater numbers than ever before. Based on data from the Pension Topical Module of the Survey of Income and Program Participation collected in 1995 by the Bureau of Census, IWPR found that 60 percent of full-time female workers participate in a pension plan, compared with 62 percent of full-time male workers. But bad news still abounds.

#E506, Research-in-Brief, 3 pages
$5.00
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Why Privatizing Social Security Would Hurt Women
by Catherine Hill, Ph.D. (March 2000)

Social Security reform is a women’s issue. Women make up 60 percent of Social Security beneficiaries, and they depend more heavily on Social Security than men do for their income in retirement. Half of the women aged 65 and older would be poor if not for Social Security. For 25 percent of elderly women who live alone, Social Security is their only source of income. (For an explanation of the benefits for women under the current Social Security system, see Table 1.)

#D437RB
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