Modernizing Social Security: Widow Benefits

In the third of a series of reports on modernizing Social Security, the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College published an Issue in Brief that advocates for increasing benefits for widows to improve their retirement security.

The poverty rate for widows ages 65 and over today is three times that of married women; and, at older ages, widows account for the majority of older households. The CRR said improving benefits for widows is an area in which some agreement has emerged.

“A popular approach,” said the Issue in Brief, “is to increase the widow benefit and cover the cost by reducing the spousal benefit – essentially shifting money from a time when both members of the couple are alive to a time when only one member is alive.”

The Issue in Brief concluded that “boosting the widow benefit – while limiting the size of the increase for above-average earners – appears to offer a well-targeted way to help reduce poverty for this vulnerable group.”