The Effect of Racial Disparities on Entitlement to Social Security Survivor Benefit and Widow Poverty

Published: 2022
Project ID: UM22-11


When Social Security survivor benefits exceed a surviving spouse’s own retired-worker benefits, it helps keep many surviving spouses out of poverty. Yet, access to survivor benefits differs by race by virtue of differences in marital histories, as well as in the full-insurance status of spouses. This project will update previous research on racial disparities in marital histories and, thus, survivor benefit eligibility. The project will consider the extent to which marital history disparities interact with racial disparities in male retired-worker claiming ages, in male full-insurance status, and in husbands’ and wives’ relative earnings — while also recognizing that marriage options may have been poor for those who chose to remain unmarried.