Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Message from the Associate Commissioner

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Message from the Associate Commissioner

Article excerpt

Over the years, the Social Security Bulletin has looked at Social Security beneficiary groups to help determine how well the program continues to work for them and what changes may be necessary as their circumstances change. For instance, the number of working women has increased more than three-fold since 1940 and their employment patterns have changed. These social alterations have had a direct impact on the types and amounts of benefits these women receive. In this issue of the Bulletin, we take a close look at female beneficiaries with a special emphasis on discussing and comparing the sources of information we use to measure their economic well-being.

David Weaver discusses and analyzes the current economic security of several groups of beneficiaries. He uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) exactly matched to data from SSA's administrative records, a major source of information on beneficiary groups. Among his findings is a high incidence of poverty for divorced spouses. A proposal to increase benefits for divorced spouses is discussed and analyzed. He concludes that much of the additional governmental expenditures for increased benefits would be targeted to those with low income.

We also make use of SSA's principle data file, the Master Beneficiary Record (MBR) in order to take a broad look at various characteristics of older women. Although its primary purpose is to provide data to calculate Social Security benefit amounts and to generate benefit checks, the MBR is the primary source for information about the types and amounts of benefits received. From the data derived from the MBR, Don Ferron discusses the changes in benefit entitlement for women over the past 35 years. He notes that despite the increase in the number of women who have become fully insured for benefits based on their own earnings records, spousal benefits remain important, particularly for widows. …

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