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Population Projections

  1. American
    Indians and
    Alaska Natives
  2. Early
    Eligibility Age
  3.  Lifetime 

  4.  Oldest 
  5.  Sporadic 
  6. Spousal-
  7. Survivor-
  8. Women
    & Dual

Survivor-Only Beneficiaries in 2050

Released: October 2012
Next expected update: Winter 2015

DEFINITION: Survivor-only beneficiaries are individuals who did not work enough to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits on their own earnings records, but do qualify for 100 percent of their deceased spouse's monthly benefit at full retirement age or reduced (by up to 28.5 percent) benefits starting at age 60.

In 2050, we project that:

  • 87 percent of survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older will be women.
  • The poverty rate will be higher for survivor-only beneficiaries compared with all beneficiaries aged 60 or older.
  • More than half of survivor-only beneficiaries will be aged 80 or older, making them among the oldest old of all beneficiaries.
  • Survivor-only beneficiaries will be disproportionately in low-earning households.
  • Survivor-only beneficiaries will earn some credits by 2050, but not enough to qualify for benefits on their own records.a
Population Characteristics
Percentage with characteristic
Pie chart series linked to data in table format.
Lifetime Shared Earnings
Percentage of survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older in quintile
Bar chart showing 57% in lowest quintile, 17% in second lowest quintile, 8% in middle quintile, 10% in second highest quintile, and 8% in highest quintile.
Age Group
Percent of beneficiaries in group
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
Median Credits Earned
Bar chart linked to data in table format.
a. To be fully insured for Social Security retirement benefits, a worker must have 10 years (or 40 credits) of earnings.
SOURCE: Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 6 (MINT6) microsimulation model using 2011 Trustees Report intermediate assumptions.