Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2021
- Did You
- Income of the
- Social Security
- OASDI & HI Contributions
- OASDI Benefits
- SSI & DI Rates and Limits
- Trust Funds
- Poverty Thresholds and Administrative Data
- Earnings in Covered Employment
- Insured Status
- Insured Status, by Sex
- New Benefit Awards
- New Awards to Workers
- Beneficiaries in Current-Payment Status
- Average Benefit Amounts
- Beneficiaries, by Age
- Age of Disabled and Retired Workers
- Beneficiaries, by Sex
- Average Monthly Benefit, by Sex
- Women Beneficiaries
- Women with Dual Entitlement
- Child Beneficiaries
Did You Know That…
69.8 million people received benefits from programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in 2020.
5.8 million people were newly awarded Social Security benefits in 2020.
55% of adult Social Security beneficiaries in 2020 were women.
55.0 was the average age of disabled-worker beneficiaries in 2020.
86% of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients received payments because of disability or blindness in 2020.
|HI||a 1.45||1.45||a 2.90|
|a. Earned income exceeding $200,000 for individual filers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly is subject to an additional HI tax of 0.90 percent.|
|Type of earner||OASI||DI||HI|
|Self-employed maximum||15,137||2,570||No limit|
Earnings required for work credits, 2021: $1,470 for one work credit (one quarter of coverage)
NOTE: A worker may earn a maximum of four credits a year. Doing so in 2021, therefore, requires $5,880 in earnings.
|NOTE: Figures are subject to change.|
Cost-of-living adjustment, 2021: 1.30%
|Year of birth||Full retirement age (FRA)|
|1937 and earlier||65|
|1938||65 and 2 months|
|1939||65 and 4 months|
|1940||65 and 6 months|
|1941||65 and 8 months|
|1942||65 and 10 months|
|1955||66 and 2 months|
|1956||66 and 4 months|
|1957||66 and 6 months|
|1958||66 and 8 months|
|1959||66 and 10 months|
|1960 and later||67|
Maximum monthly Social Security benefit: $3,148 for workers retiring at FRA in 2021
NOTE: Higher benefits are possible for those who work or delay benefit receipt after reaching FRA.
Benefit formula bend points (for workers with first eligibility in 2021):
Primary insurance amount (PIA) equals
90% of the first $996 of average indexed monthly earnings (AIME), plus
32% of AIME over $996 through $6,002, plus
15% of AIME over $6,002
|Year||Dollars||Increase from previous year (in percent)|
|Age of retired person in 2021||Annually||Monthly|
|Under FRA ($1 for $2 withholding rate)||18,960||1,580|
|FRA ($1 for $3 withholding rate) a||50,520||4,210|
|Above FRA||No limit||No limit|
|NOTE: Retired-worker beneficiaries younger than FRA have some of their benefit withheld if they have earnings above the exempt amounts.|
|a. The test applies only to earnings made in months prior to the month of attainment of FRA.|
|Federal benefit rate||794||1,191|
|Substantial gainful activity|
|For nonblind persons||1,310|
|For blind persons||2,190|
|Trial work period||940|
|Calendar year and trust fund||Income||Outgo||Fund at end of year|
|NOTE: Totals do not necessarily equal the sum of rounded components.|
|Family of two, aged head||15,644|
|Family of four||26,246|
|SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau as of January 2021 (preliminary estimates).|
OASDI administrative expenses: Costs were 0.6% of contributions in calendar year 2020
|Type of filing||Number|
Income of the Aged Population
We are suspending publication of the five charts that constitute the Income of the Aged Population section for the 2021 edition of Fast Facts and Figures as we continue to evaluate the adequacy of the charts' data source, the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (also known as the March Supplement) of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Findings from our initial evaluation are available in Dushi, Irena, and Brad Trenkamp. 2021. “Improving the Measurement of Retirement Income of the Aged Population.” ORES Working Paper No. 116. Washington, DC: SSA, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics.
Earnings in Covered Employment, 1937–2020
People contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes or self-employment taxes, as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA). The maximum taxable amount is updated annually on the basis of increases in the average wage. Of the 175 million workers with earnings in Social Security–covered employment in 2020, about 6% had earnings that equaled or exceeded the maximum amount subject to taxes, compared with 3% when the program began and a peak of 36% in 1965. About 83% of earnings in covered employment were taxable in 2020, compared with 92% in 1937.
Insured Status, 1970–2020
The percentage of persons aged 20 or older who are insured for benefits has changed very little in recent years. To be fully insured, a worker must have at least one work credit (quarter of coverage) for each year elapsed after age 21 (but no earlier than 1950) and before the year in which he or she attains age 62, becomes disabled, or dies. The maximum number of work credits needed to be fully insured is 40. An individual is said to be permanently insured if he or she has earned 40 work credits. To be insured for disability, the worker must be fully insured and have at least 20 work credits during the last 40 calendar quarters. (Requirements for disability-insured status are somewhat different for persons younger than age 31.) Disability benefits are available up to FRA.
|Year||Population aged 20 or older||Population aged 20 to FRA a|
|Millions||Percentage permanently insured||Percentage fully insured||Millions||Percentage insured for disability|
|SOURCE: SSA, Office of the Chief Actuary.|
|NOTES: The population in the Social Security area includes residents of the 50 states and the District of Columbia adjusted for net census undercount; civilian residents of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands; federal civilian employees and persons in the U.S. armed forces abroad and their dependents; noncitizens living abroad who are insured for Social Security benefits; and all other U.S. citizens abroad.|
|Figures are subject to revision.|
|a. Insured for disability excludes those who have reached FRA.|
Insured Status, by Sex, 1970 and 2020
Although men historically were more likely than women to be insured, the gender gap is shrinking. The proportion of men who are insured declined slightly from 1970 to 2020, with 91% fully insured and 79% insured for disability in 2020. By contrast, the proportion of women who are insured increased dramatically—from 63% to 87% fully insured and from 41% to 75% insured for disability.
New Benefit Awards, 2020
Benefits were awarded to about 5.8 million persons; of those, 58% were retired workers and 11% were disabled workers. The remaining 31% were survivors or the spouses and children of retired or disabled workers. These awards represent not only new entrants to the benefit rolls but also persons already on the rolls who become entitled to a different benefit, particularly conversions of disabled-worker benefits to retired-worker benefits at FRA.
|Retired workers and dependents||3,904||68|
|Spouses and children||536||9|
|Disabled workers and dependents||920||16|
|Spouses and children||301||5|
|Survivors of deceased workers||937||16|
New Awards to Workers, 1980–2020
Awards to retired workers increased considerably over the past four decades, at a higher rate than that by which awards to disabled workers increased. The annualized rate of increase over the period from 1980 to 2020 is 1.9% for retired workers and 1.1% for disabled workers. The annual number of awards to retired workers rose from 1.6 million in 1980 to 3.4 million in 2020, while for disabled workers it increased from 397,000 in 1980 to 620,000 in 2020.
Beneficiaries in Current-Payment Status, December 2020
Sixty-five million beneficiaries were in current-payment status; that is, they were being paid a benefit. Seventy-one percent of those beneficiaries were retired workers and 13% were disabled workers. The remaining 16% of beneficiaries were survivors or the spouses and children of retired or disabled workers.
|Retired workers and dependents||49,358||76|
|Spouses and children||3,028||5|
|Disabled workers and dependents||9,618||15|
|Spouses and children||1,467||2|
|Survivors of deceased workers||5,875||9|
Average Benefit Amounts, 2020
Benefits payable to workers who retire at FRA and to disabled workers are equal to 100% of the PIA (subject to any applicable deductions). At FRA, widow(er)s' benefits are also payable at 100% of the insured worker's PIA. Nondisabled widow(er)s can receive reduced benefits at age 60. Disabled widow(er)s can receive reduced benefits at age 50. Spouses, children, and parents receive a smaller proportion of the worker's PIA than do widow(er)s.
|Beneficiary||New awards||Benefits in current-payment status, December|
|Survivors of deceased workers|
|Widowed mothers and fathers||1,029||1,054|
|SOURCE: SSA, Master Beneficiary Record, 100 percent data.|
Beneficiaries, by Age, December 2020
More than four-fifths of all OASDI beneficiaries in current-payment status were aged 62 or older, including 24% aged 75–84 and 9% aged 85 or older. About 11% were persons aged 18–61 receiving benefits as disabled workers, survivors, or dependents. Another 4% were children under age 18.
Age of Disabled and Retired Workers, 1960–2020
The average age of disabled-worker beneficiaries in current-payment status declined between 1960, when DI benefits first became available to persons younger than age 50, and 2020. In 1960, the average age of a disabled worker was 57.2 years. The rapid drop in average age in the following years reflects a growing number of awards to workers under 50. By 1995, the average age fell to a low of 49.8, but by 2020, it rose to 55.0. By contrast, the average age of retired workers has changed little over time, rising from 72.4 in 1960 to 74.0 in 2020.
Beneficiaries, by Sex, December 2020
Of all adults receiving monthly Social Security benefits, 45% were men and 55% were women. Eighty-four percent of the men and 70% of the women received retired-worker benefits. Eleven percent of the women received survivor benefits.
Average Monthly Benefit, by Sex, December 2020
Among retired and disabled workers who collected benefits based on their own work records, men received a higher average monthly benefit than did women. For those with benefits based on another person's work record (spouses and survivors), women generally had higher average benefits.
|Survivors of deceased workers|
|Mothers and fathers||930||1,065|
|SOURCE: SSA, Master Beneficiary Record, 100 percent data.|
Women Beneficiaries, 1940–2020
The proportion of women among retired-worker beneficiaries quadrupled between 1940 and 2020. The percentage climbed from 12% in 1940 to 47% in 1980, 48% in 1990, and 51% in 2020. The proportion of women among disabled-worker beneficiaries more than doubled between 1957, when DI benefits first became payable, and 2020. The percentage rose steadily from 19% in 1957 to 35% in 1990 and 50% in 2020.
Women with Dual Entitlement, 1960–2020
The proportion of women aged 62 or older who are receiving benefits as dependents (that is, on the basis of their husbands' earnings record only) declined from 57% in 1960 to 19% in 2020. At the same time, the proportion of women with dual entitlement (that is, paid on the basis of both their own earnings records and those of their husbands) increased from 5% in 1960 to 24% in 2020.
Child Beneficiaries, December 2020
About 2.9 million children under age 18 and students aged 18–19 received OASDI benefits. Children of deceased workers had the highest average payments, in part because they are eligible to receive monthly benefits based on 75% of the worker's PIA, compared with 50% for children of retired or disabled workers. Overall, the average monthly benefit amount for children was $653.
Number of Recipients, 1974–2020
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides income support to needy persons aged 65 or older, blind or disabled adults, and blind or disabled children. Eligibility requirements and federal payment standards are nationally uniform. SSI replaced the former federal/state adult assistance programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Payments under SSI began in January 1974, with 3.2 million persons receiving federally administered payments. By December 1974, this number had risen to nearly 4 million and remained at about that level until the mid-1980s, then rose steadily, reaching nearly 6 million in 1993 and 7 million by the end of 2004. As of December 2020, the number of recipients was about 8.0 million. Of this total, 4.6 million were between the ages of 18 and 64, 2.3 million were aged 65 or older, and 1.1 million were under age 18.
Payment Amounts, by Age, December 2020
The average monthly federally administered SSI payment was $576. Payments varied by age group, ranging from an average of $675 for recipients aged under 18 to $468 for those aged 65 or older. The maximum federal benefit rate in December 2020 was $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple, plus any applicable state supplementation.
Federally Administered Payments, December 2020
A total of 8.0 million persons received federally administered SSI payments. The majority received federal SSI only. States have the option of supplementing the federal benefit rate and are required to do so if that rate is less than the income the recipient would have had under the former state program.
Basis for Eligibility and Age of Recipients, December 2020
Fourteen percent of SSI recipients received benefits on the basis of age and the rest qualified on the basis of disability. Twenty-nine percent of the recipients were aged 65 or older. In the SSI program, a disabled recipient is still classified as “disabled” after reaching age 65. In the OASDI program, DI beneficiaries are converted to the retirement program when they attain FRA.
Percentage Distribution of Recipients, by Age, 1974–2020
The proportion of SSI recipients aged 65 or older declined from 61% in January 1974 to 29% in December 2020. The overall long-term growth of the SSI program occurred because of an increase in the number of disabled recipients, most of whom are under age 65.
Recipients, by Sex and Age, December 2020
Overall, 52% of the approximately 8.0 million SSI recipients were women, but that percentage varied greatly by age group. Women accounted for 65% of the 2.3 million recipients aged 65 or older, 50% of the 4.6 million recipients aged 18–64, and 32% of the 1.1 million recipients under age 18.
Other Income, December 2020
Almost 57% of SSI recipients aged 65 or older received OASDI benefits, as did 28.2% of those aged 18–64 and 6.3% of those under age 18. Other types of unearned income, such as income from assets, were reported most frequently among those under age 18 (21.8%) and those aged 65 or older (10.2%). Earned income was most prevalent (4.1%) among those aged 18–64.
Child Recipients, December 1974–2020
As of December of the program's first year, 1974, 70,900 blind and disabled children were receiving SSI. That number increased to about 955,000 in 1996, declined to about 847,000 in 2000, and increased to 1,108,612 in 2020. The relatively high average payment to children (compared with payments made to blind and disabled adults) is due in part to a limited amount of other countable income. The spike in average monthly benefits in 1992 is due to retroactive payments resulting from the Sullivan v. Zebley decision. As of December 2020, blind and disabled children were receiving SSI payments averaging $675.
All Beneficiaries, December 2020
About 69.8 million people received a payment from one or more programs administered by SSA. Most (61.8 million) received OASDI benefits only, 5.3 million received SSI only, and 2.6 million received payments from both programs.
|Both OASDI and SSI||2,641|
Beneficiaries Aged 65 or Older, December 2020
Benefits were paid to 50.7 million people aged 65 or older. About 1.3 million received both OASDI and SSI.
|Disabled adult children||102|
|Receiving SSI only||1,002|
|Receiving both OASDI and SSI||1,293|
Disabled Beneficiaries Aged 18–64, December 2020
Payments were made to 12 million people aged 18–64 on the basis of their own disability. Sixty-two percent received disability payments from the OASDI program only, 28% received payments from the SSI program only, and 10% received payments from both programs.
|Workers aged 64 or younger||7,586|
|Disabled adult children||915|
|OASDI disability only||7,444|
|Receiving SSI disability only||3,402|
|Receiving both OASDI and SSI disability||1,154|
Social Security Financing
How Social Security Is Financed
Social Security is largely a pay-as-you-go program. Most of the payroll taxes collected from today's workers are used to pay benefits to today's recipients. In 2020, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds collected $1.1 trillion in revenues. Of that amount, 89.6% was from payroll tax contributions and reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury and 3.6% was from income taxes on Social Security benefits. Interest earned on the government bonds held by the trust funds provided the remaining 6.8% of income. Assets increased in 2020 because total income exceeded expenditures for benefit payments and administrative expenses.
Social Security's Demographic Challenge
The 2021 Trustees Report projects that the number of retired workers will grow rapidly, as members of the post–World War II baby boom continue to retire in increasing numbers. The number of retired workers is projected to double in about 50 years. People are also living longer, and the birth rate is low. As a result, the Trustees project that the ratio of 2.7 workers paying Social Security taxes to each person collecting benefits in 2020 will fall to 2.2 to 1 in 2039. In 2010, tax and other noninterest income did not fully cover program cost, and the 2021 Trustees Report projects that this pattern will continue for at least 75 years if no changes are made to the program. However, the Trustees also project that redemption of trust fund assets will be sufficient to allow for full payment of scheduled benefits until 2034.
The Long-Run Financial Outlook
Social Security is not sustainable over the long term at current benefit and tax rates. In 2010, the program paid more in benefits and expenses than it collected in taxes and other noninterest income, and the 2021 Trustees Report projects this pattern to continue for the next 75 years. The Trustees estimate that the combined OASI and DI trust fund reserves will be depleted by 2034. At that point, payroll taxes and other income will flow into the fund but will be sufficient to pay only about 78% of program costs. As reported in the 2021 Trustees Report, the projected shortfall over the next 75 years is 3.54% of taxable payroll.
- average indexed monthly earnings
- Disability Insurance
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act
- full retirement age
- Hospital Insurance
- Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance
- Old-Age and Survivors Insurance
- primary insurance amount
- Self-Employment Contributions Act
- Social Security Administration
- Supplemental Security Income