Social Security Facts and Figures

September 10, 2012

Guest blogger, GPO Public Relations Specialist Emma Wojtowicz, reviews a new publication giving the “Fast Facts & Figures” about the U.S. Social Security System.

The Federal Government offers many publications to educate and inform the public. If there is a topic that interests you or that you want to learn more about, Government publications are a great resource. Not all publications are long, dense and written as legal briefs.

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011 is a 36-page booklet that accomplishes what the title suggests – providing readers with fast facts and figures about Social Security.

Social Security is always a hot topic with election-year fact checkers, and this annual publication does a good job breaking down the information so the reader can understand and better grasp this important topic.

The introduction describes the publication as a “chartbook” which it is with at least one chart, graph, or table on each page. This is a smart way to present the information because it allows the reader to gain a lot of knowledge from just scanning each page.

Like most Government-related publications there are many acronyms that readers are not familiar with, luckily, this publication includes a list of abbreviations and acronyms on the second page which is helpful for understanding the content, such as OASI which stands for Old-Age and Survivors Insurance.

The data focuses on Social Security programs for retired workers and their dependents, disabled workers and their dependents, and survivors of a deceased worker, which benefits or assists over 59.2 million Americans.

Here are some of noteworthy Social Security facts and figures for 2011:

  • Of all adults receiving monthly Social Security benefits, 44% are men and 56% are women.
  • The recipients of Social Security benefits are  64% retired workers, 15% disabled workers, 12% survivors of decreased workers, and 9% dependents of a retired or disabled worker.
  • The average Social Security benefit for a worker who retires at full retirement age is $1,176 per month, and the maximum Social Security benefit a worker who retired at full retirement age can receive is $2,366 per month.
  • The average Social Security benefit for the children of a deceased worker is $750 per month.
  • Social Security is financed from three sources: 82% from payroll taxes, 15% from interest earned on Government bonds held by trust funds, and 3% from income taxes on Social Security benefits.
  • For 73% of single elderly (nonmarried aged) beneficiaries (and 54% of elderly couples receiving benefits) in 2011, Social Security provided at least 50% of their total income. Social Security benefits make up over 90% of the total income for 43% of single elderly recipients (and 22% of elderly couples), making Social Security benefits a critical source of monthly income for them to live on (See image below).

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

Society through a Comic Lens

February 7, 2012

By Guest Blogger, Marianne Mason, Federal Information Librarian, Research and Library Instruction at The University of Iowa Libraries

Comic books are not really books and often not comic, but are serialized graphics-based stories expressed through political and cultural rhetoric.  Think Maus, a story of the Holocaust.  Think Peanuts’ ethics and theology.

O.K., not all comic books or graphic novels are Pulitzer Prize winners or speak to a deep sense of ethics.  The pure entertainment value of storytelling through sequential art can be worthy on its own merits.  However, the comics can inform, persuade, and encourage new behaviors in readers.  This is the purpose of comic books authored by U.S. government agencies.

Used as social program marketing tools for decades, the government-authored comic book format has been used to promote program benefits (Social Security Administration) and to educate (Consumer Product Safety Commission) using superhero/anti-hero models like Sprocket Man (reviewed in our April 9, 2010, blog post “Just for Fun: Sprocket Man!” ) and El Gato to capture the attention of the targeted audience and cross educational boundaries.

The Army made instruction manuals measurably more appealing to combat personnel in PS Magazine by incorporating sexual innuendo in both dialog and character illustration such as in this Preventive Maintenance manual shown below:

In October 2011 the University of Iowa hosted a scholarly symposium entitled “Comics, Creativity, and Culture: International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives”, a by-invitation-only event for scholars, artists and creators of the art and literature of comic books.  The Symposium spawned a semester-long series of complementary university sponsored events ranging from art exhibits, radio broadcasts, discussions, and interactive workshops for educators and K-12 students.  The University of Iowa Libraries contributed to the celebration by creating a Comic Book Café based on the Japanese “Manga Café” model.  Several specialized library collections, including Government Information, pooled their best examples for the café.

As the U.S. Government Information Librarian, I found that this event gave me an opportunity to draw attention to the characteristics and range of government authored comic books.  Creating a government comics research guide  gave me an opportunity to do a thorough survey of the collection,  access the content of the print collection and provide links to digitized collections from the broader government information community, including this latest online booklet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preparedness 101: A Zombie Pandemic”.

In addition, the research guide provides database access to many Congressional hearings and reports in the UI collection from the 1950’s linking juvenile delinquency to explicit violence in comic books.

Whether quirky or more profound, all reflect changing societal norms that drive public policy initiatives.

On October 4th an “egg timer” book talk called Thought Balloons: Talking about Comics”, was held in the Café for creators and readers of comics to share insights and stories about connections to comic book literature.  One reader commented that when she and her boyfriend merged their comic book collections, she knew their love was here to stay!

Note regarding Images:

Images in order of mention: Sprocket Man, The 9 Lives of El Gato, PS Magazine, Comic Book Café, Zombie Pandemic (“broader gov. community”), Comic books and juvenile delinquency.  Serial Set 11815-1 (S. Rpt. 62, 84 Cong., 1st Session) 1955, Thought Balloons. Source: University of Iowa Libraries.

About our Guest Blogger:

Marianne Mason has worked with Government and legal resources in several law libraries and universities and at University of Iowa Libraries since 2001 as the regional librarian for the State of Iowa.  Her idea of a fine vacation involves clear water, forests, and the absence of machinery/technology noise.  She knows how to knit socks, two-at-a-time, toe up.


More resources about Government-created comics:


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