Why Social Security Matters

Comparisons:  Unlike the private pension system, Social Security provides retirement income to almost all American workers. Here's what old age was like before before Social Security (Wall St. Journal).

Providing for the elderly.  Social Security provides most of the elderly with their major source of income, and is, for 20%, their only source of income. In 2001, Social Security income represented more than 41% of aggregate income for the elderly (see below graph). Without Social Security, more than one third of all elderly persons in the U.S. would be living below the poverty line, according to 2001 Census Bureau data (Graph).

Providing for children and the disabled. Social Security provides income for the disabled, and is the only source of long-term disability income for 72% of the private sector workforce. It also provides support for children who have lost a parent. And it provides all of these guaranteed benefits without any government funding and at minimal cost (about as low as the cheapest index fund - (0.6 basis points in 2003)). Here are some basic Social Security facts and beneficiary data from the Social Security Administration.  (more)