History of SSA During the Johnson Administration 1963-1968


1963 National Survey of Widows with Children under Social Security

As part of the continuing evaluation of the adequacy of the social security program, this survey was designed to provide data on the problems of fatherless families who have been assured modest but regular income under the OASDHI program. It may also serve as a pilot study for a later survey of all fatherless families with young children, regardless of their beneficiary status and to locate areas in which further study is needed. This was the second Social Security Administration survey of this group of beneficiaries, the earlier made in 1957 with interviews conducted by district office staff. This was the first to be conducted as part of a broad research program with the Bureau of the Census responsible for collection and processing of data.

The survey was based on a national area probability sample of motherchild families on the OASDHI rolls as of January 1962. The findings are based on 1,068 interviews conducted in March and April 1963 by the agents of the Bureau of the Census. The widow-child beneficiary family--the basic unit in the survey--includes only the widowed mother and her children under age 18 in her care (plus the few who had their 18th birthdays an 1962 and the older entitled disabled "children"). This is narrower than the Bureau of the Census definition of a family. Families were excluded if the mother had remarried or attained age 62, or if the only entitled child was a disabled adult child whose disability began before age 18.

The report, Widows with Children under Social Security (1966),{1} presents and analyzes the statistics obtained on the social and economic situation of these families, their income, education and employment of both mother and of children, living arrangements, child care arrangements for children with working mothers, food and housing expenses, health care and health insurance coverage.

1963 Survey of the Aged

In order to have a factual basis for understanding and evaluating the impact of the social security program on individuals and on the economy, the Social Security Administration from time to time undertakes field surveys that yield detailed information on the characteristics and socio-economic circumstances of beneficiaries. Such surveys yield much information beyond that available from the program records. From the beginning of the program, periodic surveys of beneficiaries were conducted. In 1962 the decision was reached that adequate evaluation of the situation of aged beneficiaries required information on nonbeneficiaries parallel to that for beneficiaries. Social Security Administration plans were developed in the Spring of 1962 for a cross-section survey of all persons aged 62 and over (and for a small companion survey of widows with children under social security). By mid-1962, negotiations were completed with the Bureau of the Census to undertake collection of the data, using the Current Population Survey and the Quarterly Household Survey as a sample frame for the Survey of the Aged--and sample cases provided by the Social Security Administration for the widow-child survey.

The Survey collection took place in early 1963, with most of the information relating to the year 1962. The universe was compared of the civilian population aged 62 and over residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia. Institutional residents were included. About 8,500 aged units consisting of about 11,000 aged persons was the expected sample size; altogether, useful questionnaires were completed for 7,515 aged units, a completion rate of about 88 percent.

Preliminary results from the Survey were released through presentation of major findings to the Advisory Council on Social Security in late 1963 and early 1964, a series of articles in the Social Security Bulletin, research notes and papers, and in testimony at the congressional hearings that preceded passage of the 1965 Act establishing health insurance for the aged as well as providing certain improvements in social security insured status and benefit provisions.

The detailed data and full analysis of the findings of the 1963 Survey of the Aged appear in the monograph, The Aged Population of the United States: the 1963 Social Security Survey of the Aged (1967).

The monograph on this survey provides data not only on income assets and debts, but also on health care utilization and costs, employment and retirement of the aged, housing and homeownership, food expenditures, and family structure and living arrangements. Most of the information is presented for 0ASDHI beneficiaries and for nonbeneficiaries, separately as well as in combination; for those aged 65 and over; and also for the three age groups 62-64, 65-72, and 73 and over. The data are shown for married couples and the nonmarried, or for all men and women, as is appropriate to the subject. The discussion focuses on comparisons among these sub-groups rather than on summary descriptions of all "the aged." This approach reflects program interest in studying the adequacy of benefit levels and the effects on retirement rates of various program provisions.

Poverty and Low-Income Index

The Social Security Administration has for many years been concerned with the measures of the adequacy of social security benefits. It developed the first budget for an elderly couple (1948), now regularly revised and repriced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A new approach to measures of unmet need was foreshadowed in two articles which appeared in the Social Security Bulletin in 1963 (Epstein, Lenore, "Unmet Need in a Land of Abundance," May 1963, and Orshansky, Mollie, "Children of the Poor," July 1963).

This approach was further developed during 1964, leading to the Social Security Administration variable poverty index. This index was subsequently adopted by the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Economic Opportunity and other agencies as the official poverty measure. The most important distinguishing characteristic of the index is the variation of the measure in relation to family size and age of its members and farm-nonfarm residence.

Beginning with data for 1959, the Social Security Administration purchased from the Census Bureau special tabulations from the Current Population Survey for March of each year, to measure the total number of poor and their characteristics. These analyses have been recognized as having important policy implications, not only for income maintenance programs but for many facets of the war on poverty.

Because the level of living implied by the poverty index is very low–-the food budgets on which it is based are described by the Department of Agriculture as "for emergency or temporary use when funds are low"--the Social Security Administration also developed a somewhat (one-third) higher index called the Social Security Administration low-income index. Special analyses have been made of the extent to which OASDHI beneficiaries are kept out of poverty or above low-income status by their benefits and the number who remain poor or near poor even with benefit income.{2}

National Survey of Disabled Adults

A major study of persons aged 18--64 who have limitations in work activity was planned by the Social Security Administration staff starting early in 1965 to examine the effect of the degree and type of incapacity in the social and economic circumstances of the disabled person and his family. Areas of interest include the nature of the functional limitation, the characteristics of the disabled population, income sources and income-maintenance problems, medical services and hospitalization, and family and work adjustments. The study examines family resources for income maintenance and care of the disabled adults under different conditions of disability, family structure and beneficiary status. As in the case of the aged it was deemed important to have information on non-beneficiaries comparable to that for beneficiaries.

The study is being conducted through two surveys, a household survey for the noninstitutionalized population and an institutional survey. Field work for the survey of the noninstitutionalized adult population was carried out by the Bureau of the Census during the Spring of 1966. Field work for the survey of disabled adults in long-stay institutions was conducted during August and September of 1967.

The survey of noninstitutionalized disabled adults is based on a multiframe area probability sample design, selected to be representative of the non-institutionalized, civilian population of the United States. The survey was conducted in two stages: first, to screen the population aged 18–64 for people with health-related limitations in their ability to work or do housework, whose condition had lasted longer than 3 months; second, to verify the disability statement and to collect extensive data. The first stage was conducted by mail questionnaire. The second stage was conducted by personal interview. The Bureau of the Census was responsible for data collection and processing. The completed survey sample includes approximately 8,700 disabled adults who were interviewed by Census enumerators during April-May 1966. The first findings of this survey have been presented in articles in the Social Security Bulletin in December 1967 and May 1968.{3} Analysis of additional data now being processed will appear in articles and notes, and then be assembled in a major monograph.

The survey of adults in medical institutions (not including nursing homes) is obtaining data on institutional characteristics and care arrangements and, for incompetent beneficiaries, on representative payee arrangements, in addition to disability data similar to that collected for the disabled in households.

A sample of about 6,000 patients was chosen from institutional. rosters and from beneficiaries with representative payee lists. Field work was carried out in the institutions by the Bureau of Census in the Fall of 1967. Follow-up questionnaires to relatives and guardians were mailed out during April and May 1968. Processing of data will continue during Fiscal Year 1969 with tabluations beginning in the Sprinf of 1969. Analysis will be carried out and reports written beginning in Fiscal Year 1970.

Footnotes (Footnote numbers not same as in the printed version)

{1} Erdman Palmore, Gertrude L. Stanley, and Robert H. Cormier, Widows With Children Under Social Security, Office of Research and Statistics Research Report, No. 16.

{2} "Counting the Poor: Before and After Federal Income-Support Programs," by Mollie Orshansky, Old Age Income Assurance, Part II, Joint Economic Committee Compendium, 1968.
"Social Security Benefits and Poverty," by Ida C. Merriam and Rena Kling, Research and Statistics Note No. 6, February 24, 1967.
Social Security Bulletins
"The Shape of Poverty in 1966," by Mollie Orshansky, March 1968.
"The Poor in City and Suburb, 1964" by Mollie Orshansky, December 1966.
"More about the Poor in 1964," by Mollie Orshansky, May 1966.
"Recounting the Poor--A Five-Year Review," by Mollie Orshansky, April 1966.
"Who's Who Among the Poor: A Demographic View of Poverty," by Mollie Orshansky, July 1965.
"Counting the Poor: Another Look at the Poverty Profile," by Mollie Orshansky, January 1965.
"Children of the Poor," by Mollie Orshansky, July 1963.
"Unmet Need in a Land of Abundance," by Lenore Epstein, May 1963.

{3} "Identifying the Disabled: Concepts and Methods in the Measurement of Disability", Lawrence D. Haber.
"Disability, Work, and Income Maintenance: Prevelence of Disability,"
Lawrence D. Haber, 1966.