Califano v. Webster
United States Supreme Court
430 U.S. 313 (1977)
Under § 215 of the Social Security Act (SSA), old-age insurance benefits were computed based on a wage-earner’s average monthly wage minus his or her lowest years of earnings during a specific period of employment. Until a 1972 amendment to the SSA, this period of employment was treated differently for males and females. The SSA considered the earnings of males between 1950 and whenever they reached age sixty-five, while it considered the earnings of females between 1950 and whenever they reached age sixty-two. Using this calculation, females could exclude up to three more years of low earnings from their overall computation of benefits than males. This resulted in a slightly higher average monthly wage computation for females, which translated to slightly higher old-age insurance benefits for females than males. Webster (plaintiff) brought suit against Califano (defendant), administrator of the Social Security program, in federal district court on the grounds that the statutory scheme privileging women was unconstitutional. The district court held that § 215 of the SSA violated the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and Califano appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per Curiam)
Concurrence (Burger, C.J.)
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