Despite some forced-savings elements, social security is in reality a taxtransfer system based on pay-as-you-go financing. Using a tax-transfer approach, this paper analyzes the redistributive effects of social security by comparing the 1986 benefit distribution to the retired and disabled population, their dependents, and survivors with the 1986 payroll tax incidence of the working population. Findings indicate that a considerable degree of redistribution occurs from middle- and high-income tax payers to poor and near-poor beneficiaries. The paper also analyzes the demographic characteristics of taxpayers and beneficiaries to measure redistribution among different genders, marital status, age, and racial groups.