Women and Social Security: Benefit Types and Eligibility

Spouse or family Social Security benefits are important for women because many women do not earn sufficient credits throughout their working career to be eligible for their own benefits due to caregiving for children or other family members. A recent analysis shows that 30 percent of women workers spent 4 or more years out of paid work during a 15-year period, compared with only 4 percent of men.  A larger percentage of women than men become eligible for Social Security benefits as spouses, caregivers of minor children, widows, surviving dependent parents, and so forth.

This Briefing Paper describes how women can be eligible for different types of Social Security benefits – retired worker, disabled worker, and survivor benefits – not only as a worker, but also as a spouse or a family member. It also shows how Social Security provides a critical income source for women at different ages as well as for children, by examining data on current beneficiaries.