Information Center

Income from Social Security

03/23/21

Nearly nine in ten older adults receives income from Social Security. Below are statistics on the benefits received by older adults, by average, median, and relative importance.

Average Social Security Benefits

In 2019, the average retiree received an estimated $18,034 a year in Social Security benefits. Couples in which both parties received benefits received $30,991 a year. The average for an aged widow or widower was $17,072.

 

Table 8.  Average Social Security benefits, 2019
Measures of Social Security benefits Average annual benefit
Average benefits for retired workers $18,034
Average benefits received by a couple, both of whom were receiving benefits $30,991
Average aged widow/widower benefit $17,072

Median Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration also publishes median Social Security benefit numbers. These are published less frequently. The 2019 figures show that half of all people age 65 and older received less than $16,270 a year from Social Security.

 

Table 9. Median Social Security benefits, by age, 2018
Age group Median annual benefit
65 and older $16,270
65-74 $16,347
75+ $16,189

Why Social Security is So Important

Social Security benefits account for 50 percent or more of retirement income for three out of five beneficiaries who are age 65 or older. Nearly one out of five received all of their income from Social Security in 2014.

Social Security benefits are particularly important to lower-income recipients. More than half of those in the lowest one-fifth (quintile) of older adults receiving Social Security in 2014 received all of their income from Social Security.

For More Statistics on the Income of Older Adults:

Sources

Table 8. Average Social Security Benefits

  • Social Security Administration. Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, 2020. April 2020, Tables 5A1 and 5H2.
    Data: Social Security Administration Benefit Records
    Note: Social Security benefits are usually stated as average rather than median amounts. They are calculated by adding all benefits paid to a particular group and dividing that figure by the number of beneficiaries in that group.  Social Security figures are different from other income statistics because there is a limit on the amount of income that can be taken into account for the purpose of calculating Social Security benefits. Average Social Security numbers present realistic figures because no distortion results from the fact that a relatively small proportion of older adults have very high incomes.
    For more recent figures see:  Social Security Administration, Office of Policy, “Monthly Statistical Snapshot,” Table 2.
    Data: Social Security Administration Benefit Records, 2020.

Table 9. Median Social Security Benefits, by Age

  • March 2019 Current Population Survey, PINC-08.
    Note: The median figure is similar for several age groups because it comes from a survey, not actual payment data, and reflects the fact that there is relatively little difference between the highest and lowest Social Security benefit amounts.
  • Table B. Importance of Social Security Benefits, by Age
Table B. Percentage of aged beneficiary units age 65 and older receiving Social Security benefits, by age and relative importance of benefits to total income, 2014
Age Percentage of aged beneficiary units age 65 and older where the relative importance of Social Security benefits to total income is:
50% or more 90% or more 100%
65+   61%   33%   20%
65-69 49 25 15
70-74 58 31 18
75-79 67 36 21
80+ 72 42 24

Source:

    • Social Security Administration. “Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2014.” April 2016.
      Data: March 2015 Current Population Survey
      Note: Beneficiary units include retired-worker benefits, dependents’ or survivors’ benefits, disability benefits, transitionally insured benefits, and special age-72 benefits.
  • Table C. Importance of Social Security Benefits, by Income
Table C. Percentage of aged beneficiary units age 65 and older receiving Social Security benefits, by income quintile and relative importance of benefits to total income, 2014
Income quintile Percentage of aged beneficiary units age 65 and older where the relative importance of Social Security benefits to total income is:
50% or more 90% or more 100%
First     97%  82%   58%
Second 93 61 34
Third 74 26 11
Fourth 38 4   1
Fifth 4 0.1   < 1*

Source:

    • Social Security Administration. “Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2014.” April 2016.
      Data: March 2015 Current Population Survey.
      Note: Quintiles are calculated by ranking the population from lowest to highest income and then dividing it into five equal groups.
      * Number indicated is 0.1%.
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