When Social Security was passed into law in 1935, it was not intended to be an investment program to which Americans could contribute. Rather, it was established as a risk pool to which all Americans were mandated to contribute in order to insure the presence of a stable safety net. Social Security began in the Great Depression but by 1956 it had evolved into a full-scale family-oriented insurance program that included survivors' benefits. Its intent is to provide families with support for the contingencies that occur throughout the course of life, including disability, retirement and survival of widows and children. Thus, dependent spouses and children of victims of the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks will receive Social Security survivors' benefits.
It is amazing to realize that public insurance provided by Social Security to cover disability and death is greater than all private coverage of life and disability, and that it covers some 3 million children as well as older people. In fulfilling its mission, the International Longevity Center studies a variety of systems to meet the needs of people through their life course in the United States and abroad. This Brief explores the Social Security Program in the US.