Elisa Walker, National Academy of Social Insurance

Did you know that this Thanksgiving, there are more than 25 million reasons to give thanks for social insurance? According to Census Bureau data released this fall, more than 45 million people in the U.S., or 14.5% of the nation, lived in poverty in 2013.[1] The good news? Three vitally important social insurance programs – Social Security, unemployment insurance (UI), and workers’ compensation – and a related program, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), kept the poverty rate from being much higher. Together, these four programs kept more than 25 million people out of poverty.

Working together, Social Security, UI, workers’ compensation, and SSI kept nearly 25.4 million people out of poverty in 2013,[2] including:

  • Nearly 1.9 million children;
  • More than 8.4 million non-elderly adults; and
  • More than 15.1 million elderly adults aged 65+.

Social Security alone lifted more than 22.1 million people out of poverty in 2013, including:

  • Nearly 1.2 million children;
  • More than 6.2 million non-elderly adults; and
  • More than 14.7 million adults aged 65+.

UI alone lifted nearly 1.3 million people out of poverty in 2013 – down from  1.7 million in 2012. (The unemployment rate also decreased, from 8.1% on average in 2012 to 7.4% on average in 2013.[3]) Those lifted out of poverty in 2013 included:

  • 358,000 children;
  • 823,000 non-elderly adults; and
  • 46,000 elderly adults aged 65+.

Workers’ compensation alone lifted 87,000 people out of poverty in 2013, including:

  • 16,000 children; and
  • 60,000 non-elderly adults; and
  • 11,000 elderly adults aged 65+.

SSI alone lifted nearly 2.2 million people out of poverty in 2013,[4] including:

  • 347,000 children;
  • Nearly 1.4 million non-elderly adults; and
  • 423,000 elderly adults aged 65+.

So this Thanksgiving, take a minute to learn more about how these programs help millions of American families:

[1] DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Bernadette D. Proctor (2014), Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-249. www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.pdf.

[2] National Academy of Social Insurance calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (2014), using CPS TableCreator. http://www.census.gov/cps/data/cpstablecreator.html. Individual program numbers may not equal total because some households needed more than one program to raise income above the poverty threshold.

[3] “(Seas) Unemployment Rate, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey” (2014), Bureau of Labor Statistics, Series Id LNS14000000. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000.

[4] Note that this figure may underrepresent the number of individuals receiving SSI, because individuals who are interviewed for the Current Population Survey often do not report receiving SSI. For more information, see: Wiseman, Michael, and Nicholas, Joyce. “Elderly Poverty and Supplemental Security Income, 2002-2005.” Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 2, 2010, 1-29. http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v70n2/v70n2p1.html.

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