Center for Rural Affairs Enters Social Security Debate
Lincoln – The Center for Rural Affairs announced today that the organization has joined a growing coalition of farm, ranch and rural organizations concerned about President Bush’s proposed changes to Social Security. Rural Americans for a Secure Future (RASF) consists of over 30 organizations with shared concerns about the negative impact that the proposed changes to Social Security will have on seniors and rural communities.
“We are joining this debate because Social Security is a crucial part of the economic base in rural America and rural Nebraska,” said Jon Bailey, Director of Research and Analysis at the Center for Rural Affairs. “Poverty rates in rural America and rural Nebraska are already higher than in non-rural areas – but without the protection of a guaranteed Social Security benefit, the rural elderly and the rural disabled would be worse off,” added Bailey.
According to a report released by Nebraska United to Protect Social Security, Nebraska Farmers Union and the Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska’s rural communities rely on Social Security income nearly twice as much as non-rural communities. In Nebraska’s rural counties, 7.4 percent of the total personal income to individuals comes from Social Security benefits; in non-rural Nebraska counties, only 4.1 percent of the total personal income comes from Social Security.
The report also found that more women over the age of 65 receive Social Security benefits in rural communities than in non-rural communities, and that more rural Nebraskans receive Social Security disability benefits. The report was compiled by the Institute for America’s Future, a Washington, DC-based think tank, and used federal and Social Security Administration data.
According to Rural Americans for a Secure Future, the national statistics are sobering:
- Over 90 percent of counties in America with high senior populations are rural.
- In 2001, 20 percent of Rural Americans were 60 years old or older, compared with 15 percent of seniors living in metropolitan communities.
- 13 percent of rural seniors live in poverty, compared with nine percent of urban seniors.
- 15 percent of rural women over age sixty are poor compared to eleven percent of men.
- Poverty increases with age – with fully 20 percent of rural seniors (primarily women) over age 85 living in poverty.
Although the Center for Rural Affairs and RASF acknowledge the need to address the long-term solvency of Social Security, they point out that economics of rural America and rural Nebraska place many rural citizens and rural communities at grave risk in the debate over changes to Social Security benefits. Rural Nebraska communities are home to greater percentages of elderly, disabled and low-income residents, thus making Social Security more valuable to rural communities. According to the Center for Rural Affairs, rural people and rural communities have more to lose in changes to Social Security.
“Any changes to the current Social Security benefit structure should be rejected since they have disproportionate impacts on rural people and devastating economic impacts on rural communities. Any changes in the current Social Security benefit structure should be rejected because they break faith with the hard-working farmers, ranchers, small business owners and working people of rural America and rural Nebraska,” said Bailey.
The Center for Rural Affairs is a private nonprofit based in Lyons, Nebraska specializing in rural economic development.