New Report on Social Security Beneficiaries and Benefits

U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee

Washington, D.C. – As Social Security approaches its 75th anniversary, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) released a report today that uses the most current available data from the Social Security Administration to provide a demographic snapshot of Social Security beneficiaries.  The report, prepared by the JEC Majority Staff, provides detailed analysis on who receives Social Security benefits, the amount of those benefits and the extent to which those benefits sustain the economic well-being of specific populations.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Chair of the JEC, said, “This JEC report shines a light on some of the basic information about who receives Social Security, facts that are sometimes forgotten in the heat of the discussion.  Social Security is an economic bedrock for many of our grandmothers and grandfathers, and mothers and fathers.  For nearly two-thirds of elderly Americans, Social Security is their largest source of income and the heart of their economic livelihoods.  But it is also a lifeline for disabled workers and their families after the unforeseen loss of income, as well as for the families of a worker who lose their life unexpectedly.”

Highlighted data from the JEC report include:

  • In 2008, 64 percent of elderly households received at least half of their income from the Social Security program, making it the largest source of income among those households.  More than half of those households received 90 percent or more of their income from Social Security programs.  (See Figure 1 below.)
  • Average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,064, or $12,772 annually.
  • Of the 53 million Social Security beneficiaries, 5 million are ages 85 or older.

The JEC report also shows that while there are more than 53 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits, there are noticeable discrepancies across gender and racial groups.  (See Figure 3 in report.)

  • Among adult beneficiaries, benefits paid based on a man’s work were generally higher than those paid based on a woman’s.  For example, in 2009, female retired workers received, on average, $300 less per month—$3,600 per year—than male retired workers.
  • Across all beneficiary categories, the average monthly benefit for whites of $1,103 was $197 more than the average monthly benefit for blacks, and $304 more than the average monthly benefit for other minorities.

To read the entire report, click here.


The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.

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