Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty in every state, and they lift more Americans above the poverty line than any other program. Without Social Security, 22.1 million more Americans would be poor, according to analysis using the March 2018 Current Population Survey. Although most of those whom Social Security keeps out of poverty are elderly, 6.7 million are under age 65, including 1.1 million children. (See Table 1.) Social Security is particularly important for elderly women and people of color, who have fewer retirement resources outside of Social Security. Depending on their design, reductions in Social Security benefits could significantly increase poverty, particularly among the elderly.
Most people aged 65 and older receive the majority of their income from Social Security. Without Social Security benefits, 39.2 percent of elderly Americans would have incomes below the official poverty line, all else being equal; with Social Security benefits, only 9.2 percent do. (See Figure 1.) These benefits lift 15.3 million elderly Americans above the poverty line, these estimates show.
– Center on Budget and Policy Priorities