Aliza Chasan, Pilar Belendez, Maura Ewing
Data Story 1 Pitch
October 21, 2015

Proposed Headline: The High Cost of Social Security, for Seniors

News Hook: For the third time in the past six years, there will be no adjustment to Social Security payouts—despite rises in cost of living.

Nut Graf:
The cost of living for seniors is rising, and yet Social Security payouts remain flat. This year, for the third time during the Obama administration, there was no adjustment to Social Security payout amounts. The argument for keeping the payout rate flat is that cost of living has been relatively stable, largely because of falling energy prices—however, the calculations used in this argument are for the general population, not the specific needs of the elderly.

The Data –
all data can be found here:
1) Social Security monthly payouts: see sheet in folder labeled payouts. Data from SSA.
2) Cost of living over time: see sheet in folder labeled CPI. Data from SSA.
3) Annual cost of living adjustments for social security: see sheet in folder labeled COLA. Data from SSA.
4) # of beneficiaries
5) CPI-E: see sheet in folder labeled CPI-E. Data from BLS.

Description of Data:
1) Social Security Monthly Payouts – this data shows how much seniors receiving Social Security get each month based on how old they are when they start receiving Social Security. The older you are when you start, the more you get each month.
2) Cost of living over time – this data shows the CPI over time used to generate the cost of living adjustment for Social Security. The CPI has increased since 2000, but has remained relatively flat recently.
3) Annual cost of living adjustments for social security – this data shows the percentage increase in Social Security payouts each year based on cost of living adjustments.
4) # of beneficiaries – this shows the number of of people receiving Social Security, the population of people receiving SS has increased over time.
5) CPI-E – this data shows a special measure of CPI generated to match a basket of consumer goods that matches how seniors live, rather than how the general population lives. The CPI-E has increased over time and is larger than the regular CPI the government uses in its calculations.

One source you’ve spoken to or 3 potential sources:
Philip Moeller, expert on retirement; talked with him about:
-the different measures of CPI
-what role medicare plays in the Social Security situation
-impact on seniors who are living without a cost of living adjustment

We also plan to talk to:
1) AARP – (202) 434-2560
2) Henry Aaron, social security expert at The Brookings Institution – 202-797-6128
3) Mary Beth Franklin, expert on social security – 703-609-4764,
4) National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – Pamela Causey, Director of Communications, 202-216-8378/ mobile 202-236-2123,