The Gap Remains: Social Security Benefits Continue to Fall Short of Covering Basic Cost of Living for Older Americans, 2015-2020


Serval ID
Report: a report published by a school or other institution, usually numbered within a series.
The Gap Remains: Social Security Benefits Continue to Fall Short of Covering Basic Cost of Living for Older Americans, 2015-2020
Jan Mutchler, Li Yang
Institution details
Center for Social & Demographic Research on Aging Publications No. 48
Issued date
Older Americans rely heavily on SocialSecurity to support an independent lifestyle.Recent estimates suggest that among adultsaged 65 years or older, more than half rely onSocial Security for at least 50% of their familyincome, while nearly a quarter depend onSocial Security for 90% or more of their familyincome.Despite this substantial reliance on SocialSecurity among older adults, Social Securitybenefits fall short of what is required to covera basic cost of living across the United States,according to new estimates based on theElder Index, a county-by-county measure ofthe income older adults need to secure anindependent lifestyle. Nationally, the averageSocial Security benefit fulfills just 70% of basicliving expenses of housing, food,transportation, and health care for a singlerenter in 2020, and 82% for an older couple.Each September, a cost of livingadjustment (COLA) is determined for SocialSecurity benefits, based on the ConsumerPrice Index (CPI-W), and incorporated intothe coming year’s benefit adjustment.Typically, the COLA results in a modestincrease in benefits, although benefitadjustments have been set at zero threetimes since 2009. The COLAs used for benefitadjustment do not account for expenses thatdisproportionately impact older adults, suchas medical care, nor do they incorporatedifferences in costs of living acrossgeographic locations.In this report, we document spatial andtemporal aspects of Social Security benefits’coverage of older Americans’ cost of living bycomparing average Social Security benefits tothe Elder Index in 2015 and 2020. First, webriefly introduce the Elder Index and how it iscalculated to measure cost of living specific toolder adults. Second, we document theextent to which average Social Securitybenefits cover cost of living for older adults atthe national and county levels in 2020. Third,we compare patterns of coverage between2015 and 2020, identifying states whereSocial Security benefits’ coverage of the ElderIndex has increased, stayed flat, or decreasedover time. We conclude by discussing policyimplications.
Create date
06/05/2024 23:20
Last modification date
10/05/2024 7:46
Usage data