The social security programme aims at two related but conceptually distinct objectives. 1 One is to guarantee minimum income support for the aged, the disabled and dependent survivors. The success of the programme in attaining this welfare goal has been judged increasingly by the degree to which it keeps beneficiaries out of poverty. A second objective is to help moderate the decline in living standards when the earnings of the family head cease because of retirement disability or death. This earnings replacement objective is independent of the goal of preventing poverty; benefits go to families at all income levels. The distinction between these objectives should be kept in mind, because acceptance of the social security programme and proposals for improving it hinge on an evaluation of their comparative importance.