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Children's Stake in Social Security

By: Catherine Hill and Virginia Reno
Published: February 2003
Social Security Brief No. 14 - February 2003

Summary: Just over five million children under age 18 get part of their family income from Social Security. They include three million children who receive Social Security as dependents of deceased, disabled, or retired workers and just over two million children who do not receive Social Security themselves, but live with relatives who do. In 2001, more children relied on Social Security than on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for part of their families' income. Social Security is especially helpful to children in near-poor families. Just over one in three children in families receiving Social Security is poor or near-poor—that is, with family income below 125 percent of the poverty line. Children receiving Social Security have an average family income that is 25 percent lower than the average for all children in the United States.

Social Security is especially helpful to children in near-poor families. Just over one in three children in families receiving Social Security is poor or near-poor—that is, with family income below 125 percent of the poverty line. Children receiving Social Security have an average family income that is 25 percent lower than the average for all children in the United States. Social Security faces a long-term financial shortfall, and changes in benefits and revenues are being debated. Many reform plans call for reducing traditional Social Security benefits. Because children's benefits are based on the same formula used for retirement benefits, these plans would lower benefits for children unless they are specifically exempted. To date, most analyses of Social Security reform plans have focused on the impact on retirees. The impact of Social Security reform plans on the income security of children merits attention as the Social Security solvency debate moves forward.