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History of Automatic Cost-Of-Living Adjustments

Automatic benefit increases, also known as cost-of-living adjustments or COLAs, have been in effect since 1975. The 1975-82 COLAs were effective with Social Security benefits payable for June (received by beneficiaries in July) in each of those years; thereafter COLAs have been effective with benefits payable for December (received by beneficiaries in January). COLAs received in 1975-2001 are shown below.

Automatic Cost-Of-Living Adjustments
July 1975 8.0%
January 1985 3.5%
January 1994 2.6%
July 1976 6.4%
January 1986 3.1%
January 1995 2.8%
July 1977 5.9%
January 1987 1.3%
January 1996 2.6%
July 1978 6.5%
January 1988 4.2%
January 1997 2.9%
July 1979 9.9%
January 1989 4.0%
January 1998 2.1%
July 1980 14.3%
January 1990 4.7%
January 1999 1.3%
July 1981 11.2%
January 1991 5.4%
January 2000 2.5% (1)
July 1982 7.4%
January 1992 3.7%
January 2001 3.5%
January 1984 3.5%
January 1993 3.0%
January 2002 2.6%
(1) The COLA for December 1999 was originally determined as 2.4 percent based on CPIs published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pursuant to Public Law 106-554, however, this COLA is effectively now 2.5 percent.

The first automatic COLA, for June 1975, was based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the second quarter of 1974 to the first quarter of 1975. The 1976-82 COLAs were based on increases in the CPI-W from the first quarter of the prior year to the corresponding quarter of the current year in which the COLA became effective. After 1982, COLAs have been based on increases in the CPI-W from the third quarter of the prior year to the corresponding quarter of the current year in which the COLA became effective.

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