Crediting care, citizenship or marriage? Gender, race, class, and Social Security reform

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Madonna Harrington Meyer


Gender, Race, Social Security reform

Subject Categories

Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Social Welfare | Women's Studies


This project addresses welfare state theoretical debates as to how benefits should be distributed to reduce gender, race, and class inequities. Should benefit eligibility be based on citizenship, care or marital status? Scholars concerned about class-based inequities are supportive of minimum benefits that reward citizenship, while scholars concerned with gender-based inequities are supportive of policies that either reward unpaid care through care credits or policies that soften the economic ramifications of marital dissolution such as improving benefits for divorced women. The reform debate over Social Security in the United States provides a useful case study of how benefit distribution impacts inequality. Over 20 years have passed since policy analysts first argued that Social Security benefits needed to be altered to better protect women. These benefits contain two flaws. First, they no longer represent the American family due to the rise in divorce rates, single parent families, and mothers working. Second, family benefits undermine the program's redistributive goals. But no project has attempted to quantitatively evaluate the impact of the three most popular sets of reforms proposed to improve family benefits. These reforms include: (1) alterations to benefits associated with marital status, (2) case credits, and (3) creating a new minimum benefit. Thus, using the 1992 Health and Retirement Study with Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance. Social Security earnings and benefit administrative data, I examine the impacts of implementing these policy alternatives on benefit distribution for both current and future cohorts of women beneficiaries. I find that moving benefit eligibility away from marital status, even if policies intend to improve benefits for divorced women, and towards rewarding unpaid care, through care credits, or citizenship, through a universal minimum benefit best improves gender, race, and class inequities in the distribution of state benefits for present and future beneficiaries.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.