Marital Status, Gender, and Differences in Social Security Benefit Amounts

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Older Americans are a vulnerable population, and the introduction of Social Security’s Old Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI) has protected the majority of aged Americans from falling below the poverty line (Arno, House, Viola, & Schechter, 2011). With literature supporting the changing dynamics of the American family and changing trends in eligibility factors to Social Security entitlements, it is important to understand any differences among groups to identify inequalities and vulnerabilities in old age. Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) 2014 Panel Wave 2, this study examined marital status, gender, and differing Social Security benefit amounts for participants aged 62 and older who were entitled to an OASI program. Entitlement to OASI benefits, as well as the benefit amount, depends on a variety of factors including lifetime earnings, marital status, and age. The results indicated there is no statistically significant difference in monthly Social Security benefit amounts among marital categories (F(5,144) = 1.365, p = .241). Gender is not a factor for eligibility to Social Security entitlements; however, this study revealed women encounter greater economic insecurities in old age as their Social Security benefit amounts are significantly lower compared to men (t(148) = 5.454, p < .001). The results of this study are consistent with recent literature suggesting Social Security benefit amounts do not differ by marital status and that women are more disadvantaged in Social Security entitlements then men.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Public Health
Public Health