Social Security is a compulsory social insurance plan. U.S. workers pay into the program across their life course, and they and/or their families are eligible for monthly cash benefits when they reach retirement age or become widowed or disabled. Social Security is primarily funded through the Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA tax. This tax is a payroll take; 6.2% of a worker’s pay is deducted from worker paychecks and 6.2% is matched by employers. This entry describes eligibility for Social Security old age, survivor, and disability insurance; demonstrates the importance of these benefits by race, gender, and class; and explores financial and policy concerns regarding Social Security.

Benefit Eligibility

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, his goal was to protect ...

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