Jasmine Tucker, National Academy of Social Insurance

This Thanksgiving, more than 24.0 million Americans, will undoubtedly be thankful for three critical social insurance programs that helped keep them out of poverty in 2010: Social Sechttps://www.nasi.org/research/social-security/urity, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.

Although the Great Recession officially ended more than two years ago, millions of people still struggle to make ends meet and will continue to do so this holiday season.  October 2011 marked the 32ndconsecutive month that more than one out of every 12 persons is unemployed and looking for work.[1]  Additionally, more than one in seven people, including nearly two in nine children, lived in poverty in 2010.[2] But thanks to these three social insurance programs, the number of Americans living in poverty is more than 24.0 million less than it would have been without them.

Working together, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation kept more than 24.0 million people out of poverty in 2010, including:

  • Nearly 2.0 million children;
  • Nearly 8.0 million non-elderly adults;
  • Nearly 14.1 million elderly adults aged 65+.

Social Security alone lifted nearly 20.2 million people out of poverty in 2010, including:

  • Nearly 1.1 million children;
  • Nearly 5.4 million non-elderly adults;
  • Nearly 13.9 million elderly adults aged 65+. Benefits lowered the elderly adult poverty rate from 44 percent to just nine percent.

Unemployment insurance alone lifted nearly 3.2 million people out of poverty in 2010, including:

  • More than 860,000 children;
  • Nearly 2.3 million non-elderly adults;
  • 71,000 elderly adults aged 65+.

Worker’s compensation alone lifted 128,000 people out of poverty in 2010, including:

  • Nearly 100,000 non-elderly adults.[3]

To learn more about how some of these programs help millions of people and families, you can:

  • Watch a video created by the Frances Perkins Center’s Social Security Stories Project;
  • Read a compilation of stories on why Social Security matters to children, youth and grandfamilies by Generations United; or
  • Read one of the many stories on unemployment insurance collected by the National Employment Law Project.

[1] U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Table A-1 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm.

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010 – Report and Detailed Tables (2011) http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2010/index.html.

[3] NASI calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (2011) (using CPS Table Creator IIhttp://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstc/apm/ cpstc_altpov.html. Individual program numbers do not equal total because some people relied on more than one program to raise household income above the poverty threshold.


  1. LeeAnn Byrne November 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Great post! It is
    Great post! It is unfortunate that Congress and the super committee view social insurance programs as areas to attain deficit reduction. There programs are doing exactly what they are intended to do – to prevent people, particularly our most vulnerable citizens, from falling into poverty!

  2. jtucker November 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    LeeAnn – Thank you for your
    LeeAnn – Thank you for your comment. I agree – we should be finding ways to strengthen these critical programs instead of finding ways to cut benefits – especially when so many people rely on them to meet their basic needs.

  3. Jim Ellenberger November 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Well said Jasmine. Thank you!
    Well said Jasmine. Thank you!

  4. Carolyn Burgess November 28, 2011 at 5:29 am - Reply

    I am confused about my social
    I am confused about my social security income. My husband and I both were on social security. Of course my husband received more ($2,700) and I received ($1,100), when I husband deceased the social security administration only gave me $719.00 of my husband’s social secuirty income…is that correct??? I thought I was suppose to get equal to his income combine with my income a month.

  5. Financial advisor November 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I really appreciate what you
    I really appreciate what you post. You have a new subscriber now.

  6. jtucker January 3, 2012 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Dear Carolyn,

    Thank you for
    Dear Carolyn,

    Thank you for contacting the National Academy of Social Insurance. In response to your question, a widowed, retired worker may receive Social Security benefits based on their own earnings record as well as from a deceased spouse’s earnings record. The answer is a bit complicated, but you can find a more detailed description (as well as additional explanatory materials) on widowed spousal benefits on NASI’s website here: https://www.nasi.org/learn/social-security/social-security-for-widowed-spouses-in-retirement/.

    Here is an example that may relate to your question:
    “Joe Sanchez receives $1,200 a month and his wife Consuela earned enough on her own to get an $800 monthly check. Total family income is $2,000 a month. When Joe dies, Consuela will receive her retirement check plus $400 a month as a widow. Her total benefit will be as much as Joe had been receiving, $1,200 a month, or 60 percent of their former income as a couple.”

    For more information based on your personal situation, we encourage you to call your local Social Security Administration office. You can find the office nearest you by using the Local Office Search on the SSA website here: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp.

    Thank you again for contacting NASI.

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