The U.S. government issues Social Security cards like this one to help identify workers and their contributions.
Graphic courtesy Social Security Administration

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  • On August 14, 1933, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. One of the few New Deal programs still enforced today, Social Security was meant to prevent widespread poverty among older adults, people with disabilities, and unemployed Americans.

    Social Security is funded by payroll taxes. This means that almost all income and wages have a tax (usually called the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA) that goes into the Social Security Trust Fund. This fund provides assistance, such as supplemental income or medical care, to beneficiaries. Almost all Americans have a Social Security Number that tracks their contributions to the program over the course of their lifetime.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    assistance Noun

    help or aid.

    contribution Noun

    resource donated to a cause.

    income Noun

    wages, salary, or amount of money earned.

    New Deal Noun

    (1933-1938) series of U.S. government programs intended to provide economic "relief, recovery, and reform" to Americans during the Great Depression.

    poverty Noun

    status of having very little money or material goods.

    prevent Verb

    to keep something from happening.

    supplemental Adjective


    tax Noun

    money or goods citizens provide to government in return for public services such as military protection.

    widespread Adjective

    affecting a large area or community.