You are here: Social Security Administration > Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis > Population Projection: Survivor-Only Beneficiaries in 2050

Population Projections

  1. American
    Indians and
    Alaska Natives
  2. Divorced
    Spousal
    Beneficiaries
  3. Early
    Eligibility Age
    Beneficiaries
  4.  Lifetime 
    Low
    Earners

  5.  Oldest 
    Old
  6.  Sporadic 
    Low
    Earners
  7. Spousal-
    Only
    Beneficiaries
  8. Survivor-
    Only
    Beneficiaries
  9. Women
    & Dual
    Entitlement

Survivor-Only Beneficiaries in 2050

Methodology »
Released: August 2021
Next expected update: 2023

DEFINITION: Survivor-only beneficiaries are individuals aged 60 or older who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits on their own earnings records, but receive full or reduced survivor benefits solely based on the deceased spouse's earnings record. a

In 2050, we project that:

  • Almost 2 percent of all beneficiaries aged 60 or older will be survivor-only beneficiaries.
  • 79 percent of survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older will be women.
  • The poverty rate will be much higher for survivor-only beneficiaries compared with all beneficiaries aged 60 or older.
  • Survivor-only beneficiaries will be disproportionately in low-earning households.
Chart. Title: Population Characteristics: Percentage with characteristic. Pie chart series with tabular version below.
Show as table
Table equivalent for chart: Population Characteristics
Characteristic Survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older Beneficiaries aged 60 or older
Number of beneficiaries 1.4 million 84 million
Women 79% 53%
Race/ethnicity  
White 42% 63%
Black 9% 10%
All other races 16% 8%
Hispanic origin 33% 19%
Below 100% of the poverty threshold  
Scheduled benefits 14% 4%
Payable benefits 23% 7%
Chart. Title: Lifetime Shared Earnings: Percentage of survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older in quintile. Bar chart with tabular version below.
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Table equivalent for chart: Lifetime Shared Earnings
Lifetime shared earnings quintile Percentage of survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older in quintile
Lowest 78
Second lowest 9
Middle 5
Second highest 4
Highest 4
Chart. Title: Median Credits Earned: Number. Bar chart with tabular version below.
Show as table
Table equivalent for chart: Median Credits Earned (number)
Lifetime shared earnings quintile Survivor-only beneficiaries aged 60 or older Beneficiaries aged 60 or older
Lowest 12 85
Second lowest 22 146
Middle 19 168
Second highest 29 178
Highest 29 191

a. To be fully insured for Social Security retirement benefits on their own earnings record, a worker must have 10 years (or 40 credits) of earnings. While reduced survivor benefits can be claimed starting at age 60, the earliest workers can claim a retired worker benefit is age 62.

SOURCE: Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 8 (MINT8) microsimulation model using 2019 Trustees Report intermediate assumptions.