Although best known as a retirement program, Social Security can provide substantial income to children and their families. Children receive Social Security benefits either directly or indirectly when a working parent dies, becomes disabled, or reaches retirement age.
• Over 6.5 million children under age 18, or nearly 9 percent of all U.S. children, benefit from Social Security, as dependents of workers who have died or become disabled, or as family members in households where an adult relies on Social Security.
• Social Security provides the only significant life and disability protection for the great majority of the 73 million children in US under age 18.
• In addition, today’s Social Security program further values and supports children and their families by insuring children against the disability or death of a working parent, providing their parents with disability, retirement and survivors protections, and by providing a stable source of income for older and disabled family members.
Social Security provides working parents with valuable and irreplaceable insurance protection for their families against the tragedies of serious disability and death.
• The value of Social Security life insurance for a young worker with two children with average earnings in 2006 was estimated to have a value of $433,000.
• The disability insurance for wage earners is valued at more than $414,000 for a family with two children under18 years of age.
As a family insurance program, Social Security provides more benefits to children than any other social program. In fact, more children benefit from Social Security than from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the nation’s primary cash welfare program, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) combined.
• About 8 percent of Social Security beneficiaries are children.
• In addition to the 3.1 million children under age 18 who are direct beneficiaries, 135,000 plus students age 18 and 19, and nearly 800,000 severely disabled adults who became disabled before age 22, and another 3.4 million children under age 18 live in families with a relative who receives Social Security benefits.
Social Security is particularly important to families of color. Children account for about 20 percent of Latino beneficiaries and 26 percent of African American beneficiaries, compared with 10 percent of white beneficiaries.
• Since African Americans are more likely than whites to become disabled or die before retirement, their children represent a larger share of Social Security beneficiaries. African American children make up 12 percent of all U.S. children under age 18 and account for 21 percent of children receiving Social Security.
• As a group, Latinos have higher rates of disability and larger families than the population at large, this means that Social Security disability benefits are critical for Latino workers and their families.
• More than one-third of the children receiving benefits as survivors and or dependents of a person with disability are African American or Latino.
More than one-third of all child beneficiaries live in families that receive at least one-half of their income from Social Security.
• The protections are critical for the well-being of all children, especially so for many children in racial or ethnic minority families and for children in low and moderate income families.
• Without Social Security, more children would be living in poverty and the depth of their poverty would be much greater.
• Of the children in families that receive Social Security, 42 percent would be poor based only on income other than Social Security. By lifting 1.3 million children out of poverty, Social Security income reduces the poverty rate to 23 percent.
Social Security is a significant source of income for many families surviving the loss of a breadwinner.
• The average family benefit for a widowed mother with two eligible children was $2,243 a month, or about $26,916 in 2008; for the family of a married disabled worker with children, $1,690 per month or $20,280 a year.
• Benefits for children continue until they reach age 18, or 19 if they are still in high school, (or until they marry, if sooner).
• Benefits for a widowed mother or father caring for children end when the youngest child turns 16 or when the widowed mother or father remarries, if sooner.
• Benefits for a disabled adult child continue for life or until he or she marries (unless the marriage is to another Social Security beneficiary).
Social Security pays families of fallen service members and protects families from unforeseeable catastrophes, like a terrorist attack.
• Less than three weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Social Security Administration sent the first checks to survivors of workers killed in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Five years later, in September 2006, Social Security was still paying monthly benefits to 2,377 surviving children and 853 widowed spouses of people killed in the terrorist attacks. Also receiving benefits were 642 individuals disabled during the attacks and 99 of their dependent spouses or children.
• Members of the armed forces are covered by Social Security. Social Security provides survivor benefits to children and qualifying spouses of those who die in the service of our country. While income can never replace a father or mother, Social Security cash benefits help protect families against financial hardship related to a service member’s sacrifice.