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Social Security as a Share of the Economy

Because more people will receive benefits, Social Security will grow faster than the total economy, or gross domestic product (GDP). How much faster will it grow as a share of the economy?

Social Security benefits amount to 5.0 percent of GDP in 2012. By 2035, when the youngest baby boomers will have turned age 70, Social Security benefits in current law are projected to be 6.2 percent of GDP. That is an increase of 1.2 percentage points over the current cost of the program.

How does that 1.2 percentage point increase compare with past changes in national spending when the baby boomers were children? Public spending for education grew about twice as much as the projected increase in Social Security. Public education spending – by local, state and federal governments – grew from 2.5 percent of GDP in 1950, just before boomers began to enter kindergarten, to 5.3 percent of GDP by 1975. This was an increase of 2.8 percentage points.

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* The views of NASI members are their own and not an official position of the National Academy of Social Insurance or its funders.