People Facing Barriers, SSI

Poverty Data Shows Why Social Security Matters to Women and People of Color

December 7, 2023 • By and

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: December 7, 2023

Woman reviewing documentsIn September, the U.S. Census Bureau released new poverty data showing a historic increase in poverty rates in 2022 as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which takes into account the value of noncash public benefits. The surge in poverty rates reflects the expiration of pandemic relief – like stimulus payments, expanded refundable tax credits, and expanded Unemployment Insurance.

Unfortunately, as history has taught us, the impacts of poverty are felt most strongly by the most marginalized. For example:

  • SPM poverty rates for women and girls increased from 7.9% in 2021 to 12.8% in 2022.
  • One in nine adult women lived in poverty as measured by the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure (OPM).
  • The official poverty rates for women of color were even worse: 16.6% of Black women and 16.8% of Latina women were in poverty last year as compared to 7.3% of white, non-Hispanic men.
  • Women made up six in ten seniors who lived in poverty last year, with the official poverty rate for senior women remaining high at 11.2%.

The systemic inequities and underinvestment that women experience throughout their lives puts them at greater risk of living in poverty: The cumulative impacts of the gender wage gap, overrepresentation in low-paid jobs, caregiving responsibilities, and more have put women, especially women of color, at an economic disadvantage. Gender injustice compounded by structural racism means the risk of economic insecurity is much higher for older women of color.

Scary, we know.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: The solutions are right in front of us.

While the increase in SPM poverty between 2021 and 2022 is discouraging, the poverty data is a reminder that public benefits and supports can make a difference. In addition to showing the impact of pandemic relief, the SPM makes it abundantly clear how vital social insurance programs like Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are in combating poverty.

Social Security continued to be the most important anti-poverty program in 2022, moving 28.9 million people out of SPM poverty. SSI also lifted 2.5 million people out of SPM poverty in 2022.

Social Security and SSI are especially critical for older women, people of color, people with disabilities, and people with low incomes, because they serve as the foundation for their economic security, helping to make up for the fact that society has failed to effectively combat systemic discrimination and invest in their well-being.

The bottom line is that Social Security and other policies can alleviate poverty in this country and make a real difference for the economic security of women and people of color.

The National Women’s Law Center is a non-profit organization that fights for gender justice—in the courts, in public policy, and in our society—working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls.

Our posting of this blog does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any non-Social Security organization, author, or webpages.

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  1. Pissed A.

    Its ridiculous I’m disabled for over 2 yrs and finally approved waiting for back pay since November and no income the entire time how am I supposed to not become homeless with my 5 yr old waiting for it!!! They get their damn money asap but we struggle and lose everything waiting!!!!! We don’t get nearly what we paid in!!!

    Reply
    • Sue

      We’re sorry to hear about your situation. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We encourage you to contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Wait times to speak to a representative are typically shorter Wednesdays through Fridays or later in the day. We hope this is resolved soon.

      Reply
  2. Dorothy W.

    I am a 62 y/o F on SSDI with bipolar disorder, chronic back pain with 2 vertebrae rubbing on each other with no disc between them, and intractable migraines that affect my vision and pain levels daily. I also have Meniere’s disease with about a 40% hearing loss in one ear. The only medical coverage I have is Medicare. I do not qualify for extra help because my husband has a trust fund that I have no access to. Food has gotten so expensive that I’m now in a great deal of credit card debt and see no light at the end of the tunnel.

    I would like to know why governmental help programs use a standard dollar figure that is the same no matter what program you apply to. For example, because of my husband’s trust account I am over the resource limit for food stamps.
    For arguments sake, let’s say I have $200/mo too much income to get any food stamps. Then I apply for low income housing and again, I’m over the resource limit by the same $200 so no discounted rent for me. Then I apply for LIEAP to help with heat bills, again I’m denied for the same $200. To get extra help with Medicare costs, over by $200 again.

    These programs don’t consider services I’ve applied for and already been denied. How does the government think I can buy all my food, pay my rent without help, pay my heat bill without help, cover my Medicare premiums and deductibles, and out of pocket medicine expense ( my migraine prevention shot that’s only effective about half the time each month) costs me $100 out of pocket monthly and that’s just 1 of 7 meds I take! How am I meant to cover all of these costs with the same $200/mo?

    Why hasn’t anyone ever thought about excluding a person from 1 program for that $200? Then, consider that $200 spent on whichever program I applied for first, thus allowing me partial benefits in another area, and full benefits for the rest?

    There needs to be a massive overhaul of the Social Securities programs. They have not kept up with skyrocketing costs!

    With all the penalties for working and earning a little cash, the restrictions to qualify for an Able account, penalties if someone helps pay your phone bill, and the ever increasing Medicare premiums, people like me are falling further and further below the poverty line. We are human beings just like you. Why are we punished for trying to earn a bit to pay for our cost of living?

    Why hasn’t this program ever had an across the board increase so we can afford to live a simple life not having to choose between medicine and food?

    Reply
    • Johnson k.

      Why hasn’t anyone ever thought about excluding a person from 1 program for that $200? Then, consider that $200 spent on whichever program I applied for first, thus allowing me partial benefits in another area, and full benefits for the rest?

      There needs to be a massive overhaul of the Social Securities programs. They have not kept up with skyrocketing costs!

      With all the penalties for Working and Earning a little cash, the restrictions to qualify for an Able account, penalties if someone helps pay your phone bill, and the ever increasing Medicare premiums, people like me are falling further and further below the poverty line. We are human beings just like you. Why are we punished for trying to earn a bit to pay for our cost of living?

      Reply
  3. Rahul

    Social security is a big issue in today’s time, it cannot be denied.
    SahayataHindiMe

    Reply
  4. Joseph R.

    I put in the 35 year requirement for social security retirement. I’m 65 yo, not yet full retirement age, and will receive a lousy $1345.00 a month. I understand that social security was only meant to pay 40% of a person’s working wages. It’s not. I make around $47,000. Knowing all this why is a person subjected to the earrings limit? After all if I’m working I am still paying into social security and perhaps Medicare too? It seems like the solution to our problem is our government hopes we work til seventy yo, hoping that we die before we ever collect! Problem solved

    Reply
  5. Traci O.

    Why can’t I find help? I just lost my husband he died suddenly and we have been raising are grandchildren one has already gone and living own but I as single know and make 100.00 more then he did so I don’t get spouse benefits I’m on social security disability my grandchild has soonercare and we get 44.00 for food stamps how is this right. I’m on medicare advantage but can’t afford to pay 40.00 for each one of my specialist I have chronic COPD,Also I need to see my Cardiologist I have a Stent and I’m 2019 I was told my widow maker was 40% clogged have not gone back can’t afford to.also I have PTSD Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar due to past trauma.also Complated MIGRAINES with Aura stroke like symptoms ,and degenerative disc yet I have tried so hard with oklahoma Dhs so far I feel as if I’m being punished because I’m a disabled grandmother who is also raising her grandchild. What is going to happen to my sweet smart straight A student Colleges have already started emailing her school.what do you think will happen to her when I die. Or if we’re evicted from our home. I need help. Dhs isn’t helping they are very non compassionate the need to learn to have empathy .

    Reply
    • Sue

      We are sorry for your loss, Traci. You mention several issues in your comments.

      First, if you haven’t already done so, please make an appointment to file for a Lump-Sum Death Benefit of $255 (a one-time payment) and to discuss survivors benefits. To speak with a representative, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. For more information about survivors benefits, visit our Survivors Planner.

      Second, we can only pay benefits to grandchildren if certain conditions are met. Your grandchild must be legally adopted, or the child’s biological parents must be deceased or have a disability. For more information, visit our Parents and Guardians webpage.

      Third, if you have limited income and resources, you may be eligible for Extra Help with your Medicare prescription costs. To find out if you qualify and to apply, visit Apply for Medicare Part D Extra Help program. You may also be able to get help with your Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-payments through a Medicare Savings Program. To find out how to apply in your state, visit Medicare Savings Programs. You may also want to contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

      We hope this information is helpful.

       

      Reply
  6. Debbie

    Why can’t we that are on ssi get a check to help us out .they gave the people that are on social security a check for the cost of living .i went from 914 to 942 big deal that does not help us out they know what it cost to live .I am so far in debit that I can’t breath I got on ssi not by my choice but I started out at 305 in 1994 this is 2023 n all I get is 942 for the cost of living .what a joke .they outta be in our shoes and they will see what it is like to be dirt poor.i can’t have a life cause I don’t have any money to do that I have not seen a movie in over 30 years .it makes me sick how our goverment is all worried about other things n don’t care about is at all there not even going to read our replies I don’t know why i waisted my time replying

    Reply
  7. Joe

    Article full of lies.
    Gender wage gap – proven misinformation. Where I work, there us NO difference.
    You got the skills, you get the pay.
    Structural racism, more trash talk.
    You see all the smash and grab robberies?
    ALWAYS the blacks. That’s not racism, that’s facts.
    This is just Joe Biden’s woke agenda.
    Wake up people.

    Reply
    • Debbie

      I agree.even the food stamps are not enough to get me by .I struggle everyday .our goverment don’t give to craps about us.and it’s all blah blah blah

      Reply
  8. Brenda B.

    Amazing and so informative. Gave me hope existing on spousal support and coming from a long term marriage with catastrophic financial abuse
    Need for help thank you both
    Woman’s law center is also very important and helpful

    Reply

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