We must save Social Security for the 21st century…We should reduce poverty among elderly women, who are nearly twice as likely to be poor as our other seniors.

President Bill Clinton
January 19, 1999

Social Security is America’s family protection program. President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to saving Social Security for all Americans and recognize that Social Security is especially important for women. In his 1999 State of the Union address, the President emphasized the need to reduce poverty among elderly women—particularly widows, who have a poverty rate nearly twice the overall poverty rate for older Americans.


Social Security is especially important for women.
Women face greater economic challenges in retirement.
The current Social Security system has a number of features that help women meet the challenges of retirement.

Social Security will continue to be important for women in the future.
As the labor force participation rates of women continue to rise, women in the future will reach retirement with much more substantial earnings histories than in the past. The percentage of women receiving benefits based solely on their own earnings history is expected to rise from 37 percent today to 60 percent in 2060. However, this means that 40 percent of women will continue to receive benefits based on their husband’s earnings, as spouses or widows.

Women must be kept in the forefront of Social Security reform.
As discussions of Social Security reform continue, the current characteristics and needs of elderly women must be considered, as well as the changes in their needs that are likely as more women with long work histories reach retirement. In addition, reforms should consider how Social Security can best fit into the overall retirement security package. While the special provisions in the Social Security that are particularly beneficial to women must be protected, the President also recognizes that there are inequities in the system that can be fixed.

Women’s concerns—like all Americans’ concerns—must be an integral part of the public debate about the future of Social Security. Public education and dialogue is crucial to achieve Social Security reforms that truly benefit women and their families.


Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach
Phone: 202 456-7300; Fax: 202 456-7311

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