Rural Counties More Dependent on Social Security

[imgbelt img=SSPercentoftotalincome528.jpg]As the country searches for ways to cut federal spending, Congress is considering cuts to Social Security payments. Any cuts to the program, however, will disproportionately affect rural America.


reported both Republicans and Democrats agreed that Social Security should change the way it calculates cost of living increases in monthly benefit checks. The change would slightly reduce payments over time. Under this new calculation, Social Security payments would be reduced by a total of $108 billion in the next decade.

Other changes to Social Security have been discussed in Congress as it searches for ways to decrease federal spending. If benefits are cut — or if the eligibility age is increased — rural counties and small cities would be disproportionately affected, according to Peter Nelson.

“Cuts would have a bigger negative impact on rural places, absolutely,” Middlebury’s Professor Nelson said. “They are more dependent on Social Security.”

Social security payments come in three forms: an old-age pension, a survivor benefit or a disability check. Nationally, 16.7 percent of the population in 2009 received some form of monthly Social Security payments. (To see data for all states and all counties, go here.)

In rural counties, however, 23.6 percent of residents receive at least one of these three Social Security benefits. In small cities, 21.2 percent of residents receive a Social Security check.


Bill Bishop is co-editor of the Daily Yonder. Dr. Roberto Gallardo is a research associate with the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University. This study was made possible with a grant from the National Academy of Social Insurance.