In 1982 the income levels of 18 percent of women age 65 and over were below the poverty line compared to 7.6 percent of men in the same age group (Kutza, 1982). The reasons for a higher incidence of poverty among older women are often correctly attributed to the generally unfavorable position of women in the labor market. A less frequently discussed contributing factor is the programmatic deficiency of old-age pensions under social security.

Two fundamental aspects of old-age pensions have been particularly unresponsive to meeting the economic needs of older women. These are: 1) relating income protection to paid employment; and 2) favoring the needs of families over those of individuals (Campbell, 1982). There is good reason to be concerned with the increasing impact that these program characteristics have on the benefit levels of a significant proportion of elderly women. From 1975 to 1983, for example, the average pension received by all women beneficiaries as a proportion of that received by men dropped from 80 percent to 77 percent. Further, the average aeN award to woman in 1982 was 63 percent of the average new award to men compared to 72 percent in 1975 (Social Security Bullein, 1983).