The Implications of Marital History Change on Women's Eligibility for Social Security Wife and Widow Benefits, 1990–2009

by Howard M. Iams and Christopher R. Tamborini
Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72 No. 2, 2012
Table equivalent for Chart 1. Percentage distribution of female Social Security beneficiaries aged 62 or older, by type of benefit and dual-entitlement status, selected years 1960–2009
Type of benefit and dual entitlement status 1960 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2009
Retired-worker only benefit 38.7 42.1 42.3 41.0 38.5 36.9 36.2 38.0 41.4 45.1
Spouse or widow benefit of some type
Spouse only 32.8 22.4 19.6 17.6 16.4 15.3 14.3 12.9 11.4 10.0
Widow only 23.4 26.8 26.1 25.4 24.9 24.3 23.6 21.5 19.3 17.0
Dually entitled spouse 2.4 3.4 4.4 6.2 8.7 10.4 11.5 12.0 12.0 12.0
Dually entitled widow 2.1 5.0 7.4 9.6 11.5 13.0 14.4 15.6 16.0 15.4
SOURCE: Social Security Administration, Master Beneficiary Record (SSA 2011a, Table 5.A14).
NOTES: All data for 2005 and dual-entitlement data for 1995 and 2000 are based on a 10 percent sample of administrative records. All other years are 100 percent data. Benefits exclude special age-72 beneficiaries and disabled adult children. They include disabled workers. Widow-only beneficiaries include disabled widows and mothers. Totals may not sum to 100 because of rounding.
Table equivalent for Chart 2. Percentage of women ineligible for Social Security spouse or widow benefits because of marital history, by age group and race/ethnicity, 1990 and 2009
Race/ethnicity Young adult (30–39) Middle age (40–49) Late middle age (50–59)
1990 2008 1990 2008 1990 2008
All 24.0 29.8 12.9 22.0 7.5 16.2
White 21.5 26.0 10.9 19.6 6.3 13.8
Black 42.4 56.7 24.3 40.9 13.4 33.9
Hispanic 23.1 26.3 19.5 20.2 10.9 17.3
SOURCE: Authors' calculations using 1990 and 2008 SIPP (Wave 2) data.
NOTE: Data are weighted.
Table equivalent for Chart 3. Percentage of US-born and foreign-born Hispanic women ineligible for Social Security spouse or widow benefits because of marital history, by age group, 1990 and 2009
Birthplace Young adult (30–39) Middle age (40–49) Late middle age (50–59)
1990 2008 1990 2008 1990 2008
US born 29.3 31.3 23.2 28.3 7.2 20.6
Foreign born 17.3 21.6 16.5 12.8 15.3 14.1
SOURCE: Authors' calculations using 1990 and 2008 SIPP (Wave 2) data.
NOTE: Data are weighted.