Women are the majority (55 percent) of adult beneficiaries, collecting Social Security as retired or disabled workers, as wives, and as widows. Women pay 41 percent of Social Security taxes because they earn less than men do, and they collect approximately 49 percent of the benefits because they live longer than men, on average.
Women spend fewer years in the work force because they are more likely to be at home when their children are young, and they typically earn less than men when they are in the work force. This means that if they qualify for a private pension, it usually will be less than the pension earned by men. For all these reasons, Social Security serves as an important protection for women against economic insecurity in old age.
The average married woman receiving Social Security benefits will outlive her husband by eight years. Therefore, the spousal and survivor benefits are key parts of the program. In 2010, approximately 22 million women were over the age of 65, compared with about 17 million men, or a ratio of 129 women for every hundred men, according to data from the Social Security Administration. Of those 75 years and older, the ratio of women to men increases to 151 women for every hundred men.
Because women are often lower-paid than men, they benefit from Social Security's progressive benefit formula, which replaces a larger proportion of past wages for lower-earning workers.
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