Young Americans and Social Security

By Center, 2030 | Workforce, October 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Young Americans and Social Security

Center, 2030, Workforce

Shattering the foundation for a common stereotype of young adults, new survey research focusing exclusively on 18- to 34-year-olds finds that this group has remarkably positive views of Social Security. Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted a national survey on behalf of the 2030 Center, among a representative sample of 403 young Americans age 18 to 34. The survey was conducted by telephone from May 17 to May 24, 1999. The survey examined young people's attitudes regarding retirement security, the Social Security system, and proposals for Social Security reform. This report reviews the main findings of the survey research. For more about Social Security reform, read "Making Sense of Social Security Reform," in this month's issue of WORKFORCE, on page 76.

Strengthening and protecting Social Security is an important priority for young Americans. Long considered a "seniors" issue, Social Security emerges in this survey as a significant priority for younger Americans who are far from retirement age. Today's young people express support for Social Security that is of remarkable strength, consistency, and breadth.

Overall, 81 percent of young adults say that they support the Social Security system, including 39 percent who support the system strongly; only 16 percent are opposed to Social Security. Some groups-such as minorities (44 percent strongly support) and Democrats (52 percent)-are especially passionate in their support, but what's much more striking is the extent to which all groups of young people register support for the system. For example, more than three-fourths of whites, professionals and managers, Republicans, and those with an income of more than $50,000 a year say that they support 'Social Security.

The survey also gives lie to the idea that young people resent government's excessive generosity to seniors at the expense of younger generations. Just 12 percent of young Americans agree with the statement that "senior citizens generally get more than their fair share of government benefits, and that is unfair to young people," while an overwhelming 85 percent take the opposing view that senior citizens generally need and deserve the government benefits they receive, so it is not unfair to young people.

A tougher test of young people's support for systems aiding the elderly and disabled is posed when they are asked to choose among competing priorities for spending the federal budget surplus. By nearly two to one, they would prefer Congress to use the surplus to strengthen Social Security over paying for a tax cut (59 percent to 32 percent). An even larger majority give priority to strengthening Medicare (67 percent) when the alternative is supporting a tax cut (27 percent). While young working people may be interested in tax relief, they are more concerned today with strengthening Medicare and Social Security for the futureand this preference could play an important role in determining how they vote in the 2000 presidential elections. Interestingly, even young Republicans say that tax cuts are a lower priority than is Social Security (52 percent to 40 percent) or Medicare (55 percent to 41 percent).

Reform Rather Than Replace

Young people reject the notion that Social Security cannot work for their generation and that it must be replaced, and they think that the system's traditional mission of providing a guaranteed retirement income is more important than is achieving a higher rate of return. They were asked which of two statements they agree with more regarding Social Security and its relevance for their generation: Statement A: The Social Security system cannot work for young people the way it worked for previous generations, and it needs to be replaced.

Statement B: The Social Security system can work for young people when they retire if Congress will strengthen the system's finances.

Fully two-thirds (67 percent) chose statement B, saying that Social Security remains relevant for their generation, while just 29 percent feel that Social Security must be replaced with a different system.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Young Americans and Social Security


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?