Encore: The decline in Social Security’s family benefits

Social Security provides not only benefits to workers who retire after a lifetime of work or become disabled but also spousal and survivor benefits. These “family” benefits were designed in the 1930s for a one-earner married couple. The spousal benefit guarantees the lower earning spouse – generally the wife – a benefit at the full retirement age equal to half her husband’s full benefit. The survivor benefit guarantees a widow a benefit equal to her husband’s actual benefit. Divorcees are entitled to spousal and survivor benefits if the marriage lasted 10 years or more.

These family benefits have been a source of great controversy.

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