(November 2000) In 1998, Social Security benefits provided the primary source of money income for the older population in the United States. The mean income received from the Social Security program in 1998 was $8,869. Among older people with incomes below 50 percent of the poverty level, Social Security accounted for 86 percent of total money income, while it accounted for only 22 percent of total money income among older people with incomes over 400 percent of the poverty level.

Private pensions are another important source of income for older people, accounting for 18 percent of their total income in 1998. Among older men, private pensions accounted for 24 percent of income in 1998, while they accounted for only 12 percent of older women’s income.

In 1998, older whites had the highest average money income, $21,861, compared with $13,378 for blacks, $18,022 for Asians, and $12,765 for Hispanics. The major source of income for the white older population was Social Security (39 percent), followed by pensions (19 percent) and earnings (18 percent). Among black and Hispanic older people, income from Social Security benefits accounted for half of total income (52 percent and 48 percent respectively). Income from interest was least important among black and Hispanic older people: Interest income accounted for only 5 percent of total money income for blacks and 7 percent for Hispanics, compared with 13 percent for whites in 1998.


Most of the data, charts, and graphs on the older population are based on tabulations from the Census Bureau’s March Current Population Survey (CPS).