Size of Income, 1962 and 2006

Median annual income for married couples and nonmarried persons aged 65 or older has increased markedly since 1962 (the earliest year for which data are available). Even after adjusting for inflation, median income has risen 100% for married couples and 111% for nonmarried persons. A married couple is aged 65 or older if the husband is aged 65 or older or if the husband is aged 54 or younger and the wife is 65 or older.

Receipt of Income, 1962 and 2006

Social Security benefits—the most common source of income for married couples and nonmarried persons aged 65 or older in 1962—are now almost universal. The proportion of the aged population with asset income—the next most common source—is similar to that in 1962. Over the 44-year period, receipt of private pensions has more than tripled, and receipt of government pensions has increased by approximately 50%. The proportion of couples and nonmarried persons aged 65 or older who had earnings was smaller in 2006 than in 1962.

Shares of Aggregate Income, 1962 and 2006

In 1962, Social Security, private and government employee pensions, income from assets, and earnings made up only 84% of the aggregate total income of couples and nonmarried persons aged 65 or older, compared with 97% in 2006. The shares from Social Security, private pensions and government employee pensions have increased since 1962. The shares from earnings and asset income are the same in 2006 as they were in 1962

Relative Importance of Social Security, 2006

In 2006, 89% of married couples and 88% of nonmarried persons aged 65 or older received Social Security benefits. Social Security was the major source of income (providing at least 50% of total income) for 52% of aged beneficiary couples and 72% of aged nonmarried beneficiaries. It was 90% or more of income for 20% of aged beneficiary couples and 41% of aged nonmarried beneficiaries. Total income excludes withdrawals from savings and nonannuitized IRAs or 401(k) plans; it also excludes in-kind support, such as food stamps and housing and energy assistance

Poverty Status Based on Family Income, 2006

The aged poor are those with income below the poverty line. The near poor have income greater than or equal to the poverty line and less than 125% of the poverty line. Nonmarried women and minorities have the highest poverty rates, ranging from 16.8% to 22.7%. Married persons have the lowest poverty rates, with 4.4% poor and 3.3% near poor. Overall, 9.4% are poor and 6.2% are near poor.

Earnings in Covered Employment, 1937–2007

People contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes or self-employment taxes (FICA and SECA), as required by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act. The maximum taxable amount is updated annually on the basis of increases in the average wage. Of the 163 million workers with earnings in Social Security–covered employment in 2007, 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 2007, compared with 92% in 1937.

Insured Status, 1970–2007

The percentage of persons aged 20 or older who are insured for benefits has increased over time. 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 full retirement age (FRA).