Monday, August 2, 2010

Gender Wage Disparity is Quantifiable through Social Security Disabiity Payouts

A significant graph was published in the Social Security Annual Statistical Report this year. Not only does it provide a quick average of monthly payments made to disabled workers and their families, it also provides a quick look at the disparity in actual earnings between men and women.

This is demonstrated in two places. First, it may be seen in disabled worker payouts (based on their earnings), where the men's payments were approximately 25% greater than the benefits paid to women, and secondly in widow(er)s' benefits, where men's benefits were significantly less due to the payment being based on their wives contributions.

In a 2009 report titled Women's Earnings in 2008, the U.S. Labor Department reported women's median wages to be 79.9% of men's. It would seem that biological and social factors are large contributors to this disparity since the report found that women who never married earned 94.2% of their unmarried male counterparts' earnings which demonstrates a much smaller differential.

Since the average disabled worker is 53 years old, it becomes obvious that this metric is a lagging indicator of wage disparity, and it will be interesting to track how much this gap will close in years to come.

From The Social Security Statistical Report:

"The average monthly benefit for disabled-worker beneficiaries is higher than that paid to disabled widow(er)s or disabled adult children. The reason for the difference is that disabled workers receive 100 percent of the primary insurance amount (PIA), compared with 71.5 percent for disabled widow(er)s and 50 percent for disabled adult children (if the worker is disabled or retired) or 75 percent (if the worker is deceased).

Because men have traditionally had higher earnings than women, their monthly benefit is higher. This is most obvious in the disabled-worker group. Benefits for disabled widow(er)s and disabled adult children are dependents' benefits, so their monthly benefit is a function of the worker's earnings. Therefore, a disabled widow's average benefit tends to be higher than that of a disabled widower because a male worker's earnings are higher than a female worker's. Benefit amounts are about the same for men and women in the disabled adult children group."

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