Social Security Choices for the 21st‐​Century Woman

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Since 1935 millions of elderly Americanshave relied on Social Security for their retirementincome. However, the program is nowboth structurally and financially unable to meetthe needs of today's workers, especiallywomen.

Although there has been much public attentionpaid to Social Security's looming financialcrisis, even more important to women may bethe clash between the current benefit structureand the socioeconomic changes that haveoccurred since 1935, such as the great increasein the number of women in the workforce,women marrying later or not at all, and the doublingof the divorce rate. By failing to keep pacewith the changing nature of American families,Social Security's outdated benefit structureresults in single women and dual-earner couplessubsidizing the benefits of wealthier single-earner couples, which creates a sharplyregressive element to the current benefit structure.

Social Security reform not only must restorethe system to solvency, it should also addressthe program's other inequities that disadvantagewomen. The best way to do this would beto allow younger workers, including youngerwomen, to privately invest at least a portion oftheir Social Security taxes through individualaccounts. Not only would individual accountshelp to solve Social Security's financial problemsby taking advantage of the higher returnsavailable to private capital investment, theywould give women greater ownership and controlof their retirement income and create a benefitstructure far more in tune with the needs ofthe modern family.

Everyone who truly favors giving womenmore choices and control over their own livesshould champion such a reform.

Download the Social Security Choice Paper


Leanne Abdnor

Leanne Abdnor, former vice president for external affairs at the Cato Institute, is president of For Our Grandchildren, a grassroots advocacy organization that supports Social Security reform. She was a member of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.