Transcript: Dr. Carroll Estes calls on Congress to improve Social Security benefits for women of color

Remarks by Dr. Carroll Estes, Chair of Board of Directors of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, on the NCPSSM’s proposals to improve Social Security benefits for women (May 11, 2012): 

Dr. Carroll Estes, Chairwoman of the Board of Directors at the National Committee to Protect Social Security & Medicare. SOURCE: C-Span.org

“This report that we are presenting today is an urgent call for our retirement system to catch up with the changing needs of women and their families.

“Building on what works, the report offers a modernization plan for Social Security that would break the glass ceiling by strengthening benefits for women and improving the adequacy of Social Security in light of the very difficult economic plight of women across America and lives fraught with risk in all walks of life.

“The report examines the paradox of women’s increasing role in the workforce while they find themselves economically vulnerable in old age.

“Women’s lifetime of juggling competing demands of paid work in the labor market with unpaid work in family caregiving means women have less opportunities than men to accumulate assets across their lifespan.

“Interrupted employment patterns with periods of full and part-time work punctuated by time out of the paid labor market is a recipe for low wages, few fringe benefits, and fewer assets in old age.

“Despite women’s increased labor force participation, women earn 19% less than men.


“For women of color, wage disparities are even greater with little, if any, access to private pensions coverage and lower amounts when provided.

“Family responsibilities crowd out opportunities to work, and to pay, and to save.

“Older women of color are most vulnerable even with Social Security. Older Hispanics and African-Americans experience double the poverty rate of older white women.

“Compounding their financial difficulties, women live longer, have more chronic illness, and high out-of-pocket health costs.

“Throughout their lives, black and Hispanic women tend to have lower educational achievement, higher unemployment, lower wages, and greater caregiving responsibilities for the young and increasingly grandchildren and the frail elderly.

“The disparity and income under Social Security by sex is clear. Men make approximately $15,620 while women’s average income is $12,155.


“Nevertheless, Social Security is the most important source of income for older women. It is a vital lifeline for all Americans that represents 90% of the income of more than a-third of retired Americans.

“This report speaks to why race and ethnicity must be a factor in Social Security reform.

“Social Security provides 90% of the annual incomes of more than half of Hispanics and almost half of African-Americans.

“The differences by race and ethnicity are even more pronounced when we take into account marriage and living arrangement.

“Fewer market and marriage-based resources make older women particularly dependent upon Social Security.

“Among unmarried women of color, 58% rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their total income.

“The American people correctly understand that they have paid into Social Security all their working live and that they have earned their benefits.

“Consistently over its history, national polls favor universal old-aged programs and think the U.S. should be doing more for the elderly. It’s more than 70% in the most recent polls crossing party lines and age lines.

“The crisis is not in Social Security but the private system that has failed to provide a foundation for income security in old age.

“The Great Recession of 2008, crashing stocks, home values, 401k, and next to zero interest rates on savings have demonstrated the grave risk we bear if we do not improve the universal risk pool of social insurance that we have earned through Social Security.

“While fiscal hawks hope to use Social Security for deficit reduction, we offer a modernization plan that would strengthen benefits for women and their families while improving equity and adequacy for generations of Americans.

“Our nation cannot afford not to provide fair and adequate benefits for future generations of working Americans.

“Social Security is a family program. It is for families not just elders. It pays more benefits to children than any other federal program through their coverage in the event of death or disability of a caregiver.

“For veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan disabled and for those killed in war, Social Security is a vital lifeline for their children and their spouses who raised them.

“This was the case of the 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist attack. There were about 2,600 children who received their first Social Security check within 30 days of that disastrous event and the deaths of their working parent.

“Social Security not only is good for the American people, it’s good for the American economy. It pours more than $725 billion at last count into the nation through individual beneficiary payments. This money is spent on necessities and contributes to the economy and security of our communities and neighborhoods.

“That is $1 billion in the District of Columbia each year, more than $12 billion in Maryland, and $18 billion in Virginia for those close to home here.

“The reality is that Social Security needs to be protected and strengthened. It is a practical means of protecting all ages at various points in our lives.

“Thank you.”

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One Comment on “Transcript: Dr. Carroll Estes calls on Congress to improve Social Security benefits for women of color

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Dr. Heidi Hartmann on proposed reforms to improve Social Security benefits for women & same-sex couples | What The Folly?!

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