Widows and Social Security

Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3, pp. 89-109, 2010

21 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2010

Date Written: August 2, 2010


This article provides policymakers with context for understanding past and future policy discussions regarding Social Security widow benefits. Using data from surveys, projections from a microsimulation model, and recent research, it examines three types of benefits - those for aged widows, widows caring for children, and disabled widows. The economic well-being of aged widows has shifted from one of widespread hardship to one in which above-poverty, but still modest, income typically prevails. Many aged widows experience a decline in their standard of living upon widowhood, a pattern which is pronounced among those with limited education. Widows caring for children have been a sizeable beneficiary group historically, but policy changes and demographic trends have sharply reduced the size of this group. Family Social Security benefits ensure a modest level of household income for widows caring for children. Disabled widows differ from the other groups because they are at higher risk for poverty.

Keywords: Widows, Poverty, Social Security

JEL Classification: H5, I13

Suggested Citation

Weaver, David A., Widows and Social Security (August 2, 2010). Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3, pp. 89-109, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1646377

David A. Weaver (Contact Author)

Social Security Administration ( email )

Washington, DC 20254
United States
202 358 6252 (Phone)

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