Can You Pass Our Social Security Quiz?

August 12, 2015

A grandmother, mother, sister, and daughter pose together for a photo.

Women still bear a disproportionate burden of caregiving responsibilities. Photo courtesy of C.K. Koay via Flickr.


For 80 years, Social Security has been our nation’s most successful anti-poverty program. Yet few people realize the crucial role that the program plays for women. Test your knowledge! Guess whether each statement below is true or false, and then learn the facts.

True or False

Nearly 60 percent of people receiving Social Security benefits are women.

True. Women face greater retirement insecurity than men do for a number of reasons. Women do not spend as much time in the workforce, have less access to private savings, and need more resources to support a longer lifespan.

Social Security provides a vital source of income for both divorced and unmarried women.

True. Divorced women, who historically face the highest poverty rates among all elderly U.S. women, receive Social Security benefits either as retired workers themselves, as divorced spouses, or as surviving divorced spouses. Without Social Security, single women who work in low-wage positions would have to save 25 percent of their earnings starting from their first day of work to adequately provide for retirement.

Social Security is especially critical to women because of the gender pay gap.

True. Because women are typically paid less than men, women tend to have lower savings and lower participation rates in 401(k) plans. Women benefit from Social Security’s formula, which replaces a larger proportion of past wages for lower-earning workers.

Social Security is exclusively a retirement program.

False. Only half of all Social Security recipients get benefits solely as retired workers. In addition to divorced spouses, widows, and spouses, children and people with disabilities receive vital assistance from Social Security. In fact, the program provides more income to families with children than welfare does.

Social Security protects more than 9 out of 10 American workers and their families in the event of a life-changing disability or illness.

True. About 8.8 million workers with disabilities receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), including almost 2 million children. SSDI is the main or only source of income for the vast majority of beneficiaries.

Although Social Security needs reform, the program isn’t broken beyond repair.

True. The most recent Social Security trustees’ report shows that Social Security can pay all scheduled benefits through 2034, and the reality is that Social Security is the strongest of the three legs of retirement security for women.

There are lots of myths about Social Security, but the truth is compelling. The program supports millions of older women — more than half of whom would fall into poverty without it. The bottom line is that women can’t save money they haven’t been paid. Women still bear a disproportionate burden of caregiving responsibilities, which can take them out of the paid workforce to assist children and aging parents. And the gender pay gap means women have lower savings and pension benefits (if any), leaving them on an unequal footing in retirement.

Make no mistake, the current Social Security system contains many benefits that must be maintained and strengthened, including full cost-of-living adjustments, guaranteed lifetime benefits, a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits, and disability and survivor benefits. AAUW believes that it is vital to women’s economic security to provide for the long-term solvency of Social Security and to maintain its current guaranteed benefits.

Since AAUW’s founding, our members and supporters have spoken out about policies that are important to women and girls. We’re grateful for the eight decades of work that Social Security has done to help strengthen economic security for women and their families, and we’ll continue to push for improvements for the next eight decades and counting.

Renee Davidson By:   |   August 12, 2015


  1. […] men are truly equal under the law, including when it comes to sex discrimination in employment, Social Security, education, you name […]

  2. Avatar Lynda Trunzo says:

    There are 2 rules in Social Security that make it almost impossible for a retired school teacher to collect spousal benefits when she/he becomes a widow/widower. One is the Government Pension Offset and the other is the Windfall Elimination Act. Both use a reduction formula to decrease the amount of Social Security benefit dollars if the retiree is receiving a retired teacher pension. This is true in only 14 states. Widows/widowers in the other states can collect both their pension and Social Security. These are both unfair acts and deprive retirees money that was meant for them in retirement. I would like to see the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Act repealed.

Join the Conversation

You must be logged in to post a comment.