Another Way to Modernize Social Security

In the second in a series of briefs on modernizing Social Security, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College advocates for the adoption of caregiver credits.

Traditionally, Social Security has supported family caregivers – typically women – through a spousal benefit. Today, however, many women are not eligible for this benefit because they are not married or they qualify for their own worker’s benefit.

As a result, many mothers receive little to no support to offset lost earnings due to childrearing responsibilities, according to the report. In response, some advocates propose caregiver credits to boost Social Security earnings, a common provision in other developed countries.

These credits could be offset by reducing benefits somewhat for higher earners.

“The key for U.S. policymakers is to determine the primary goal of such a credit – improving the lot of mothers generally or increasing benefit adequacy for the most vulnerable,” the brief stated. “Fortunately, even if the primary goal is to help mothers generally, a credit would also help improve benefit adequacy because mothers tend to be at higher risk for poverty.”