Social Security Reform:
Implications for the Financial Well-Being of Women
T-HEHS-97-112, Apr 10, 1997
GAO discussed the impacts of proposals to finance and restructure the Social Security system, specifically the impacts on the financial well-being of women.
GAO noted that: (1) its work shows that, despite the provisions of the Social Security Act that do not differentiate between men and women, women tend to receive lower benefits than men; (2) this is due primarily to differences in lifetime earnings because women tend to have lower wages and fewer years in the workforce; (3) women's experience under pension plans also differs from men's not only because of earnings differences but also because of differences in investment behavior and longevity; (4) moreover, public and private pension plans do not offer the same social insurance protections that Social Security does; (5) furthermore, some of the provisions of the Social Security Advisory Council's three proposals may exacerbate the differences in men and women's benefits; (6) for example, proposals that call for individual retirement accounts will pay benefits that are affected by investment behavior and longevity; and (7) expected changes in women's labor force participation rates and increasing earnings will reduce but probably not eliminate these differences.