- Executive Director of the Older Women’s League
- Opposes Social Security privatization
- Advocates same-sex marriages
Born in the early 1940s, Laurie Young earned a Ph.D. in counseling from the Catholic University of America in 1983. She served as senior vice president of the National Mental Health Association from 1998-2001, and as executive director of the Older Women’s League from 2002-07. Since 2008 she has worked for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force as a director and a policy analyst on aging-related issues. Young herself is a lesbian who married her longtime partner in 2010.
Young views the United States as a nation that has long mistreated women, LGBT individuals, and nonwhite minorities. Testifying before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging (on May 23, 2002), she identified several key reasons why women experienced “reduced income and compromised economic security in retirement,” when compared to men. Most notably:
1. “Women earn less. The economic chasm that is evident between women and men during their work lives grows much larger during retirement years. Almost 40 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, women still earn only 73 percent of what men earn. And the pay gap only increases with age…. Over a lifetime, the wage gap adds up to an average of about $250,000 less in earnings for a woman to invest in her retirement. The wage gap affects all women, but it affects women of color the most…. The wage gap ensures that the average woman will consistently have a lower retirement income than the average man … [and] that she will depend on Social Security much more.”
2. “Across the generations, it is women who act as informal caregivers for parents, children, friends, spouses, and partners. Unfortunately, they often pay a steep personal price for the care they provide. Women’s health, earnings, and retirement security are put at risk by informal caregiving, and increasingly so the longer they provide care…. Women of all races and ethnicities juggle their jobs and caregiving roles, but caregiving has an even greater impact on African American women and Latinas, who earn much less and often care for more people.”
3. “In order to balance the demands of family and financial need, many women have no other option but to seek part-time employment. Women make up about two-thirds of the part-time labor force, working in jobs that offer little, if any, pension coverage…. Latinas fare the worst.”
To address the foregoing problems, Young called on policy makers to “enact pay-equity legislation”; “improve women’s access to pensions” by “extend[ing] pension coverage to part-time and temporary workers”; “provide caregiving credits under Social Security”; and “count caregiving leave time toward [pension] vesting requirements.”
Young is adamantly opposed to any public policy that would, in any way, lower or defer Social Security benefits, or that would privatize the Social Security program in even the smallest measure. In March 2004 she stated: “Once again Social Security and Medicare are under attack from those who would like to see these programs replaced by personal savings accounts and health savings accounts…. Instead of trying to scare the American people into believing Social Security and Medicare are unstable programs on the verge of collapse, we should focus on the disastrous effects of making [the 2001 and 2003] tax cuts permanent,” as President George W. Bush had recently proposed. “If the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 are made permanent,” Young added, “the loss in revenue over the next 75 years will be approximately the same as the projected shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare.”
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, Young also weighed in on the topic of same-sex marriage. Asserting that opposition to such unions was rooted in “irrational fears and bigotry,” she said: “The time has come for patriots who embrace diversity and inclusion to voice their concerns to their elected Congressional Representatives.”
In August 2010, Young revisited the notion that to cut, defer, or privatize Social Security benefits — to even the slightest degree — would constitute a betrayal of America’s inviolable “promise of social insurance to lift people up to a life of dignity and worth as we age.” “Because same-sex couples are denied federal recognition of their legal relationships,” she expanded, “we [members of gay couples] will not be able to rely on survivor’s benefits or spousal benefits. LGBT people make [earn] less than heterosexual people as a whole, and for an individual, that difference can be a path to poverty as we age. Many changes are necessary at the federal level to ensure a life of grace and dignity for LGBT elders.”
In January 2018, Young was a presenter at the thirtieth annual conference of Creating Change, an organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the “LGBTQ and allied movement.” The title of her presentation was “Moving LGBTQ Aging Work Through Your Community Advisory Boards.” In a preview of Young’s talk, the conference’s official program stated: “LGBTQ elders face unique and difficult challenges as we age including isolation, poverty, a lack of family caregivers, and a social service system which may not be welcoming and affirming. This [presentation] will focus on the economic insecurity and familial insecurity we face and the isolation that can be deadly. Participation in local governing boards helps to change cultures and change laws.”
Further Reading: “Laurie Young” (LinkedIn.com); “Testimony of Laurie Young” (A Hearing of U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, 5-23-2002); “Many Women See Social Insecurity in Tax Cuts” (WomensENews.org, 3-30-2004); “Celebrating Two Special Anniversaries” (TheTaskForce.org, August 2010, re: Social Security benefits and same-sex couples); “Moving LGBTQ Aging Work Through Your Community Advisory Boards” (Official Program of the Creating Change Conference, page 100, January 24-28, 2018).