Health Policy

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Program Director: Peter S. Arno

Overlooked but Not Forgotten

Social Security is one of the federal government’s largest antipoverty programs for children. A new study written by PERI's Peter Arno and Jeannette Wicks-Lim and published by the Center for Global Policy Solutions examines Social Security's effect on children living in extended households that receive benefits, with results stratified by race and ethnicity. The study demonstrates that, as of 2014, approximately 6.4 million children benefited from Social Security directly or indirectly. This amounts to fully 9 percent of all U.S. children under the age of 18 and 11 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries.

>> Read "Overlooked But Not Forgotten: Social Security Lifts Millions More Children Out of Poverty"

Social Security is our nation's premiere social insurance program providing a safety net for roughly 60 million workers, their families and their children. At a time of escalating inequality, wage stagnation and declining retirement savings, is a new interactive online tool that shows how Social Security benefits us all.

The financial impact of Social Security benefits goes way beyond individual recipients. About 39 million retirees, 9 million people with disabilities, 6.7 million widows, widowers and spouses and 4.4 million children spend their benefit dollars on goods and services. This generates additional economic activity and stimulates the economy in every state.

Crucial information categorized by state, county, congressional district, age, race/ethnicity, and gender is easily accessible on

>> Visit 

Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Improve Health?

February 2015 -- Poverty and health have a well-established relationship: lower socioeconomic status leads to worse health outcomes. Yet research has rarely tested the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs at improving health. In this paper, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Peter Arno examine the health effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the largest anti-poverty program for working families operating throughout the U.S. The authors find that New York's EITC program reduced the low birth weight rate in poor neighborhoods, an important health indicator. The study is the first to analyze EITC's impact on neighborhoods, rather than households, and finds a concentrated health benefit in high poverty areas.

>> Read "Improving Population Health by Reducing Poverty: New York's Earned Income Tax Credit"

Solving Social Security's Fiscal Dilemma

September 2011 -- In this Politico column, Peter Arno describes how only modest changes are needed to keep Social Security fiscally sound over the next 75 years; the projected shortfall is less than 1 percent of GDP. The drastic cuts to the program being considered by Congress —reducing benefits, cutting the cost of living adjustment and raising the retirement age — are not necessary and could indeed prove harmful. The relentless rise in income inequality over the past 30 years, combined with a legislated salary cap on the taxable contributions to Social Security, has meant that those at the very top of the income pyramid are contributing a smaller and smaller share of their income to Social Security.

>> Read "Solving Social Security's Fiscal Dilemma"

Social Security and Population Health

May 2011 -- Peter Arno and colleagues find that following the initial implementation of Social Security in 1940, mortality rates declined among the elderly even more than among younger age groups. The trend continued when the Social Security program was markedly improved between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s. A better understanding of the link between Social Security and health status among the elderly would add a significant and missing dimension to the public discourse over the future of Social Security, and the potential role of income support programs in reducing health-related socioeconomic disparities and improving population health.

>> Download "Social Security and Mortality: The Role of Income Support Policies and Population Health in the United States"

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