Jasmine V. Tucker, National Academy of Social Insurance
In September, the Census Bureau released the official poverty figures for 2012, which showed that 46.4 million Americans (15%) lived in poverty last year. 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. Last year, these four programs worked together to keep nearly 26 million Americans above the federal poverty level, which was roughly $12,000 for a non-elderly adult living alone and $23,300 for two non-elderly adults and two children.
Working together, Social Security, UI, workers' compensation, and SSI kept nearly 26 million people out of poverty in 2012,  including:
More than 1.8 million children;
More than 8.4 million non-elderly adults; and
More than 15.6 million elderly adults aged 65+.
Social Security alone lifted more than 22.1 million people out of poverty in 2012, including:
More than 1.0 million children;
Nearly 5.9 million non-elderly adults; and
More than 15.2 million adults aged 65+.
UI alone lifted more than 1.7 million people out of poverty in 2012, including:
More than 1.2 million non-elderly adults; and
64,000 elderly adults aged 65+.
Workers’ compensation alone lifted 125,000 people out of poverty in 2012, including:
36,000 children; and
86,000 non-elderly adults; and
2,000 elderly adults aged 65+.
SSI alone lifted more than 1.9 million people out of poverty in 2012 , including:
Nearly 1.3 million non-elderly adults; and
316,000 elderly adults aged 65+.
So this Thanksgiving, take some time to learn more about how these programs help millions of American families:
 NASI calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (2013) (using CPS Table Creator II) 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.
 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.