Chart of the Day: Poor elderly women to get screwed in fiscal cliff deal

NWLC chart showing loss under chained CPI
After several offers and counteroffers, Congress and the President may be close to reaching a fiscal cliff deal. Part of that agreement involves cutting Social Security benefits by switching to calculating them based on chained CPI.

According to Brad DeLong, “‘Chained-CPI’ is code for ‘let’s really impoverish some women in their 90s!'”

Since women tend to live longer than men and tend to be poorer than men, they’ll be the hardest hit by this change. As Bryce Covert notes, Social Security is basically the only source of income for nearly 40 percent of women over 80, compared to 28 percent of men. By switching to chained-CPI, at age 80, a single elderly woman’s Social Security benefits would be cut by the equivalent of one week’s worth of food each month, according to the National Women’s Law Center. By age 95, they’d be down by nearly two weeks of food. Some women have the support of their children to fall back on, but many do not. (See the cumulative cuts in the chart above.)

This hit is likely on top of another $100 billion in spending cuts to important domestic programs that low-income women and children rely on. As Bryce notes, “Poor women make for a pretty pathetic bargaining chip after an election in which women helped usher Obama to victory.”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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