By Fred Kammer, SJ
Over twenty-one million Americans—including 8.7 million women—are saved from poverty each year, 2.6 million of them in the Gulf South. Without Social Security, the poverty rate among those 65 and older would be 43.6 percent; with Social Security it drops to 8.7 percent. Overall, almost 90 percent of elderly Americans receive some of their family income from Social Security: 38.3 million elders.
Social Security is a bastion against poverty not only for the elderly, but also for many children. 6 million children under 18 live in families receiving Social Security. Of these six million, 3.2 million kids received their own Social Security benefits. 1.2 million were survivors of deceased workers; another 1.7 million received Social Security because their parent had a severe disability; and 315,000 received benefits because their parent or guardian had retired. The protection of these children, along with spouses of workers, is part of the overall Social Security system reflected in its formal name: Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. Recipients of Social Security of all ages totaled 55,404,480 in December 2011.
The two charts below help to explain the impact of Social Security on the populations of the Gulf South states. The first table indicates the number of beneficiaries of Social Security in these states:
As the table shows, almost ten million people receive Social Security benefits in the Gulf South. The economic impact is significant on the region and on the individuals and families receiving Social Security income.
Focusing just on the elderly, the second table discloses the impact on poverty among the elderly in the region. Column one indicates how many of the elderly would be living in poverty if they were not receiving Social Security income and column two indicates the percentage in poverty with the receipt of such income.
Of twenty-one million Americans lifted out of poverty by Social Security, a total number of 2,608,000 individuals are in the Gulf South.
Congressional and Administration negotiators over the so-called “fiscal cliff” should keep this data in mind as they work—we hope “together”—to stabilize the nation’s fiscal house, remembering that the “least among us” still are the Gospel priority in measuring and building the common good of society and that Social Security remains our nation’s strongest wall against poverty for millions of Americans.
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