Social Security pays monthly benefits that replace, in part, income from wages lost when a worker retires, becomes disabled, or dies. Benefits are paid to the worker and to family members who relied on the lost earnings.
47 million people, or 1 out of every 6 Americans, receive Social Security benefits. Nearly 1 in 4 households receives income from Social Security.
Beneficiaries include 29.5 million retired workers, and 4.9 million widows and widowers. Almost 5.9 million disabled workers received benefits, along with 753,000 severely disabled adult children of deceased, retired, or disabled workers. Another 3.1 million children under age 18 received benefits because their parent had died, become disabled, or retired.
Social Security provides more than half of all income for 2 out of 3 persons over the age of 65. For all but the highest-income 20 percent of the elderly, Social Security is the largest single source of income.
Average Monthly Benefits, January 2004
(Type of Beneficiary and Average Monthly Benefit)
Sources: Social Security Administration, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics; Social Security Administration, Office of Research, Evaluation and Statistics, Income of the Population 55 or Older, February 2002; and Census Bureau, March 1999 Annual Demographic Supplement to the Current Population Survey.