Life Insurance

Social Security Survivors Benefits Only Cover About Half of Lost Earnings for Young Families

As many as 6 million Americans rely on Social Security survivors benefits to replace lost income after a loved one has died. Whether you're a surviving spouse or child, you might need to rely on this type of income to get by. But the monthly benefit checks only stretch so far. Our research shows survivors benefits usually aren't enough to cover all the bills for a typical surviving family.

To understand how survivors are faring, ValuePenguin analyzed the gap between a family's normal budget and what they may receive from Social Security survivors benefits after someone has died.

Key findings

National Social Security survivors benefits by state

Survivors may be eligible for Social Security benefits if a family member dies. But because the benefits are based on the worker's earnings, the deceased person must have worked long enough to qualify for benefits.

Because you'll receive money each month, consider these benefits when planning your life insurance coverage.

As seen in the table, the largest average monthly Social Security benefit for a young widower with two children is in New Jersey ($3,181) followed by Connecticut ($3,178) and New Hampshire ($3,071).

The District of Columbia ($2,495), Mississippi ($2,521) and New Mexico ($2,570) have the smallest average benefit for young families.

Survivors benefit potential shortfall by state

As seen in the table, families in the District of Columbia see the largest financial gap among all U.S. states. However, this is in part because D.C. has the largest average earnings for a full-time worker. On the other hand, individuals in West Virginia have the smallest gap but also the lowest average earnings for an earner.

Interestingly, although Alaska has a high average income (14th in the nation), the state ranks 34th for average Social Security benefits for young families. This contributes to the larger-than-average shortfall of $2,965 or 52%.

Young widowers, on average, will only receive 75% of the survivors benefits that aged widowers are granted, a difference of $337.

Specifically, a young widower on average receives $999 per month while aged widowers receive $1,336.

Young widowers are defined as a surviving spouse with minor children in the home. A widower who is young, is not disabled and has no children would not be able to draw benefits.

Children in New Jersey have an average monthly Social Security survivors benefit of $1,004

This is 13% higher than the national average for children's Social Security benefits and 30% larger than District of Columbia ($771). Below, we have provided a full breakdown of average benefits for both widowers and children in all states.

StateYoung widow(er)sChildren
National average$999$885
Alabama$946$841
Alaska$976$870
Arizona$1,036$884
Arkansas$919$814
California$999$930
Colorado$1,041$937
Connecticut$1,131$994
Delaware$1,094$902
District of Columbia$907$771
Florida$1,017$870
Georgia$970$848
Hawaii$993$928
Idaho$1,029$890
Illinois$1,061$917
Indiana$1,071$884
Iowa$1,045$899
Kansas$1,061$888
Kentucky$929$819
Louisiana$932$807
Maine$964$874
Maryland$1,061$938
Massachusetts$1,049$945
Michigan$1,086$924
Minnesota$1,071$937
Mississippi$897$789
Missouri$1,001$832
Montana$1,009$845
Nebraska$1,041$893
Nevada$1,021$911
New Hampshire$1,090$962
New Jersey$1,115$1,004
New Mexico$936$793
New York$1,042$947
North Carolina$980$856
North Dakota$991$869
Ohio$1,022$850
Oklahoma$979$841
Oregon$1,052$930
Pennsylvania$1,056$905
Rhode Island$1,045$903
South Carolina$971$849
South Dakota$972$802
Tennessee$965$829
Texas$970$874
Utah$1,082$927
Vermont$1,024$906
Virginia$1,012$915
Washington$1,081$959
West Virginia$975$844
Wisconsin$1,073$913
Wyoming$1,070$920

Methodology

For each state and the District of Columbia, analysts compared average earnings for full-time year-round workers to the average Social Security survivors benefit received by widow(er)s with two eligible children. Earnings data is from the 1-Year 2018 American Community Survey from the US Census, and benefits data was calculated from December 2018 data reported by the Social Security Administration.

Sterling Price

Sterling Price is a research analyst at ValuePenguin specializing in health and life insurance. He graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelors degree in Finance and Accounting and has previous experience as a licensed life insurance representative.

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