Friday, April 4, 2008

Today the Tax Policy Center (co-directed by The Urban Institute and The Brookings Institution) hosted an event titled "Race, Ethnicity, Poverty, and the Tax-Transfer System" which was a quite interesting discussion. The main topics were Education, Work and Family Incentives, and Social Security as related to tax policy. As one might expect, the EESI team zeroed in on the third topic.

The panelist discussing Social Security was Melissa M. Favreault, a Senior Research Associate in the Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center. Ms. Favreault brought up quite a few interesting points regarding low-income older Americans and The Social Security system. Among the most notable are the following, many of which are illustrated by the Elder Standard™ Index:

[]Economic status upon retirement is highly cumulative as various disadvantages compound over a lifetime;

[] For the average low-wage worker, their Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) contribution in combination with the shifted burden of the employee contribution (by a reduction in wages), over a lifetime, often exceeds their take home pay;

[] Because Social Security pays benefits in the form of life annuities, those with longer life expectancy can expect to receive larger payouts. As a result, the literature suggests many men and women of color often pay into the system more than they receive in payout;
[] Decoupling supplemental Social Security benefits from marriage and rather directing them toward child care or other dependent care would be the only true way of honoring and compensating caregiving contributions across lines of race, ethnicity and sexual preference;
[] Social Security comprises 90%+ of income for adults 65 and older in the bottom income quintile as compared to just 28% for the middle quintile.

For more information, visit the EESI section of the Wider Opportunities for Women website or contact

Comments Please: Have you experienced the magnification of disparities upon retirement personally or with a family member?

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