U.S. Social Security Reform and Intergenerational Equity

  • Teresa Ghilarducci


One of the persistent allegations against the U.S. Social Security system comes from both ends of the political spectrum, the right and the left. Feminist economists argue Social Security benefits men by tracing its patriarchal roots. The program was based on a model of a male breadwinner with dependent women and children and the original act excluded industries with high concentrations of female employment. Indeed, twenty percent of single American older women are poor (though Social Security halved that rate from 1971 to 1991) while child poverty remains at the shocking rate of 20%. Old women living alone in the U.K. and Australia have even higher poverty rates than the U.S., over 60% and 40% respectively. In the U.S. older men’s poverty is just 8% — higher than international standards — but lower than male workers. The World Bank report emphasizes that this is not unusual: the elderly are often better off than workers and their children in most OECD nations (World Bank, 1994, 77).


Social Security Child Poverty NBER Working Paper Private Pension Retirement Income 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

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  • Teresa Ghilarducci

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