Social Security Is Very Important Anti-Poverty Program for Children

Print
March 29, 2005

Social Security Is Very Important Anti-Poverty Program for Children

More Poor Children Benefit from Social Security Than TANF

For Immediate Release: March 29, 2005

Contact: Debi Kar, 202-387-5080  

During the Social Security debates, proponents of privatization often focus on the need for a “secure retirement system for future generations” and “saving Social Security for sake of our children”. However, the current Social Security system is already the country’s most important anti-poverty program for the nation’s children.

A new study by CEPR economist Heather Boushey, using data from the Survey on Income and Program Participation (SIPP), found that more low-income children live in families that receive a Social Security check than in families that receive a check from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

In 2003, 12.1 percent of children living in families with an income below the 150 percent of the poverty line ($28,736 in 2004 for a family of four) lived with a family member receiving a Social Security check.  By comparison, 11.3 percent of children living in poverty lived with a family member receiving a TANF check, making Social Security a more important program for children in low-income families. When looking at families below poverty, TANF is slightly more common: 15.5 percent of poor children live in families receiving a TANF check, while 12.2 percent live in families receiving a Social Security check. While TANF is somewhat more important for the poorest families, Social Security becomes relatively more important at slightly higher levels of income, because few low-income families are eligible for TANF once their income exceeds the poverty level.

Social Security is an important source of income support for the low income families who receive it, accounting for nearly half of the income for families with children living below 150 percent of the poverty level and receiving a Social Security check. 

While it is common knowledge that Social Security is essential to the welfare of the nation’s retirees, Congress must recognize the fact that it is also an extremely important program for the nation’s children and in particular, the poorest children. Any changes to the system must take this into account, as well as the effects of restructuring of Social Security on disability and survivors benefits, which also affect the well-being of low-income children. The debates over the future of this system must address the potential political and economic implications to all of its beneficiaries.