Social Security is the primary form of life insurance for many families with children. For an illustrative young family — a 30-year-old worker earning $30,000-$35,000 a year with a spouse and two young children — Social Security disability and life insurance protection are each valued at over $550,000.
Currently, more children live in families receiving income from Social Security than live in families that receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). About 8.4 million children benefit from Social Security. They include 3.1 million children who receive benefits directly because a parent has died, become disabled, or retired, and an additional 5.3 million children who live with a relative receiving Social Security benefits. Children can collect benefits up to the age of 18, or until 19 if they are still in high school. The spouse of a worker who died can collect benefits to care for the worker’s child who is under age 16, or who is disabled.
Life insurance benefits for families with children are based on the deceased worker’s past earnings and the number of eligible children in the family. Larger families receive higher benefits, and a family maximum limits total payments to families of three or more beneficiaries. For families of the same size, survivors of low-income workers receive benefits that replace a larger portion of lost earnings than is the case for families of higher-earning workers. If a worker, whose earnings would have averaged $40,000 over a full career, had she lived, died at age 35 in 2015, annual Social Security survivors’ benefits for the family of a surviving spouse and two children would be about $29,844. This level of benefits would replace about 77 percent of the deceased worker’s earnings of $38,902 in 2014.
For more information, see:
- A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security
- A New Deal for Young Adults: Social Security Benefits for Post-Secondary School Students, Social Security Brief No. 33
- Social Security Across Generations: Benefit Cuts Will Fall on Today’s Children and Grandchildren, Social Security Fact Sheet No. 1
- Children’s Stake in Social Security, Social Security Brief No. 27
- Testimony of Virginia P. Reno at “Social Security at 75: More Necessary Than Ever”
- Social Security: An Essential Asset and Insurance Protection for All
- Uncharted Waters Fact Sheet: Family Issues: Spouses and Children
Read what some Academy members think: *
* The views of Academy members are their own and not an official position of the National Academy of Social Insurance or its funders.