March 23, 2005. News from the Fiscal Policy Institute:

More than one million elderly New Yorkers depend on Social Security for at least half their income and 571,000 depend on Social Security for more than 90% of their income, according to a new study released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Economic Policy Institute.  The study, Social Security and the Income of the Elderly, co-authored by Michael Ettlinger, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN) and EPI economist Jeff Chapman, shows a high reliance on Social Security for the well-being of the elderly across boundaries of sex, race, or state of residence.

“Like earlier studies that found that absent Social Security more than 800,000 elderly New Yorkers would live in poverty, this study confirms that cuts in Social Security benefits, now or in the future, would have a devastating effect on the standard of living for elderly in New York, ” noted Trudi Renwick, Senior Economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Highlights from the study show that for New York:

  • 64% (1,112,000) of those 65 or older receive 50 percent or more of their income from Social Security;
  • 33% (571,000) of those 65 or older rely on Social Security for more than 90% of their income.

The report shows that  Blacks, Hispanics and unmarried women are particularly dependent on Social Security.  The study estimates the percent of income coming from Social Security for the median elderly married couple or individual for a number of different categories.  The percent of income from Social Security for the “median” means  that half the couples or individuals in that category will have a higher percentage of their incomes from Social Security, while half of the couples or individuals in each category will have a lower percentage of their income from social security.  For example, half of nonmarried women in New York rely on Social Security for more than 84% of their income.  Half of Hispanic elderly couples and individuals rely on Social Security for more then 82% of their income.

Percent of Income from Social Security for Median Elderly Couple or Individual in New York
65 or older
75 or older
Nonmarried men
Nonmarried women
Married couple

This heavy reliance of the elderly on Social Security income means that replacing the current system’s prescribed benefit levels with a system that is susceptible to risks inherent in private stock market investment returns would have a significant impact on the quality of life for those who do not secure the best-performing investments.