Cutting Social Security Hurts Mothers Most


Our friends at Wider Opportunities for Women are hosting a “Budget Matters” Blogging Day on Wednesday, May 26. They challenged me to blog about two questions: “What can President Obama and Congress do to help Americans be economically secure while balancing the budget? And what do President Obama and Congress need to know about your budget – or that of those you represent?” You’ll see my response below. You can go to their site and blog your own answers to these vexing questions, and see what other women have to say.

Men and women are treated differently by the Social Security system. When the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform looks for places to cut the fat, they’ll look hard at Social Security, and likely attempt to repair our budget woes by cutting back on benefits. That will be bad for retired American workers. It will be catastrophic for women, and devastating for mothers.

Our Social Security system rewards paid employment. The longer you’ve been employed and the more you’ve earned, the higher your monthly benefit will be. Of course, the longer you’ve been employed, the more time you’ve had to participate in your employer’s pension program. The more you’ve earned, the more you’ve been able to save in an IRA, or similar retirement savings program. A long work life with steadily increasing pay means a more secure retirement, free from financial worry.

Like many federal programs, Social Security was not designed with women in mind. Women spend less time in the paid workforce; by some estimates, as much as 12 years less. Often, this is because they had children, or turned away from employment to look after a parent, spouse, or other dependent family member. When they do work, they make less money. Women don’t have access to employer-sponsored retirement pensions to the same extent men do. If they do, their pensions are about half the size of the typical man’s pension. Not surprisingly, that Social Security check makes up a much greater portion of retirement income for an older woman. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the typical retired female receives $9872 per year in Social Security payments. For many women, especially those who sacrificed economic independence to raise children or look after others, it is the only retirement income they have. When women reach age 75, 13 out of 100 will live in poverty. For men over 75, that number is only 8 out of a hundred. (IWPR Publication #D487, March 2010)

Because women perform most of the family care work in this country, they are more likely to be poor in later life. Social Security benefits for most women are exceedingly modest. For many, they are simply inadequate. Cutting benefits is no solution to balancing our budget. While it might look good on paper, the reality of a huge increase in the number of poor, elderly women, benefits no one. “Mom and apple pie” deserve far better.

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington



    A dead-on post! Well researched and couldn't be more relevant to today's discussion regarding Social Security and the nation's debt. We must protect Social Security – for women most of all. Thanks for your contribution.

  • Joannie


    I recently came across the concept of 'social care' that came out of the recent British elections. There has been what they call a – Big Care Debate – in the UK and they have recently released a white paper that is reflecting on outcomes. This is something that I think will be of interest to you, if you hadn't seen it already – see:

    or a google search – building the national care service –

    I think it is productive to talk in terms of care – rather than mothers work – moving towards a concept of the universal caregiver – everyone needs and gives care.

    for now, Joannie

  • Joannie

    Hello again,

    This report is also relevant


    UK carers strategy – recognising that women do the majority of the work of care


  • Nao

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