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Population Projections

  1. American
    Indians and
    Alaska Natives
  2. Divorced
    Spousal
    Beneficiaries
  3. Early
    Eligibility Age
    Beneficiaries
  4.  Lifetime 
    Low
    Earners

  5.  Oldest 
    Old
  6.  Sporadic 
    Low
    Earners
  7. Spousal-
    Only
    Beneficiaries
  8. Survivor-
    Only
    Beneficiaries
  9. Women
    & Dual
    Entitlement

Sporadic Low Earners in 2050

Methodology »
Released: August 2021
Next expected update: 2023

DEFINITION: In contrast to a lifetime low earner, a sporadic low earner is a Social Security beneficiary aged 60 or older who:

  • is fully insured by age 61;
  • has at least 30 years of non-covered earnings or 30 years of covered earnings at less than half the average wage;
  • has more than 5 years with zero earnings; and
  • was never disabled.

In 2050, we project that:

  • Seven percent (5.9 million) of all beneficiaries aged 60 or older will be sporadic low earners.
  • Thirty-six percent (2.2 million) of sporadic low earners will have earnings from non-covered work.
  • Of all sporadic low earners, more than half (3.3 million) will be native born.
  • Almost all immigrant sporadic low earners will arrive in the U.S. before age 50.
  • The poverty rate will be significantly higher for sporadic low earners compared to all beneficiaries aged 60 or older.
  • The median benefit for sporadic low earners will be 43 percent lower for women and 59 percent lower for men compared to all beneficiaries aged 60 or older.
Chart. Title: Population Characteristics. Pie chart series with tabular version below.
Show as table
Table equivalent for chart: Population Characteristics
Characteristic Percent
Sporadic low earners as a percentage of all beneficiaries aged 60 or older 7
Percentage of sporadic low earners with non-covered earnings 36
Chart. Title: Poverty Rates: Percentage below 100 percent of poverty. Bar chart with tabular version below.
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Table equivalent for chart: Poverty Rates (percentage below 100 percent of poverty)
Benefit type Sporadic low earners Beneficiaries aged 60 or older
Scheduled benefits 19.2 4.0
Payable benefits 24.5 6.8
Chart. Title: Immigrant Status. Pie chart with tabular version below.
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Table equivalent for chart: Immigrant Status
Status Percentage of sporadic low earners
Native born 56.2
Early-arriving immigrants (under age 50) 43.2
Late-arriving immigrants (aged 50 or older) 0.6
Chart. Title: Median Benefit by Sex: In 2021 dollars. Bar chart with tabular version below.
Show as table
Table equivalent for chart: Median Benefit by Sex (in 2021 dollars)
Benefit type and sex Sporadic low earners Beneficiaries aged 60 or older
Scheduled benefits  
Women 1,019 1,785
Men 878 2,125
Payable benefits  
Women 815 1,428
Men 702 1,700

SOURCE: Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 8 (MINT8) microsimulation model using 2019 Trustees Report intermediate assumptions.