Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Patria D. Julnes


Patria D. Julnes


By the year 2030 there will be twice as many retirees in the United States as today but only 18 percent more workers. This aging of the population will place considerable financial strain on the United States social security system; relatively few workers will be taxes to pay the benefits of relatively many retirees. Because of this change in demographics, the Social Security Administration will not be able to pay scheduled social security benefits as outlined by current law. Therefore, it is imperative that the government act soon to address the looming fiscal imbalance of the social security program.

The Senate Aging Committee and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) both encourage Congress to take a Rawlsian perspective when evaluating social security reform measures that are intended to cope with changing demo- graphics. In their estimation, a desirable reform should not only balance the budget, but it should also protect benefits for the economically vulnerable. In this paper, I examine the relationship between John Rawls theory of social justice and the US social security system. I then provide fifteen possible social security reforms that are consistent with Rawls theory. I conclude with an analysis of the political feasibility of the various reforms considered. As a special example, the mathematical model used to generate the results for three of the reforms is included at the end of the paper.


This work made publicly available electronically on June 13, 2011