Survivor's Benefit for minor children

Survivor’s Benefit for Minor Children

We don’t normally think of Social Security as an income support program for children.  However, the Social Security Administration pays more benefits to children than any other federal public benefits program.  This benefit can be a lifeline for children when a working parent dies and can no longer care for the child.

Funding Source

Survivor’s benefits for children are paid by the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.  Funds are collected through employer and employee contributions, commonly known as “FICA taxes”  “payroll taxes” or “Social Security taxes”.  Funds are allocated to this Fund and the Disability Insurance Fund and that allocation is set by law.   Over the years, Congress has changed this allocation to account to assure continued solvency of either fund.

In 2012, individuals pay 4.2% of their earnings up to $110,100 and employers pay 6.2% of the individual income up to the same amount.  The 2% differential, known as the “payroll tax holiday”, is set to expire after 2011 and individuals will pay 6.2% again.  In 2012, self-employed individuals pay 10.4% of their earnings, down  2% as well.  The “payroll tax holiday” is currently being funded by general revenues.


  • Parent who died after having worked and earned enough credits
  • Unmarried
  • Younger than 18 or 19 if in elementary school or high school
  • Over 18 and living with disability that occurred before the age of 22 (discussed further in “Childhood Disability Beneficiary” Fact Sheet)

How Benefit Amount is Calculated

Survivors receive a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit, usually 75%.  There is a maximum family benefit that is usually 150% to 180%.  The total of each individual family members benefit cannot exceed this amount and benefits will be adjusted accordingly.