MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the issue of the constitutionality, under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, of those provisions of the Social Security Act that condition the eligibility of certain illegitimate children for a surviving child's insurance benefits upon a showing that the deceased wage earner was the claimant child's parent and, at the time of his death, was living with the child or was contributing to his support.
Robert Cuffee, now deceased, lived with Belmira Lucas during the years 1948 through 1966, but they were never married. Two children were born to them during these years: Ruby M. Lucas, in 1953, and Darin E. Lucas, in 1960. In 1966 Cuffee and Lucas separated. Cuffee died in Providence, R. I., his home, in 1968. He died without ever having acknowledged in writing his paternity of either Ruby or Darin, and it was never determined in any judicial proceeding during his lifetime that he was the father of either child. After Cuffee's death, Mrs. Lucas filed an application on behalf of Ruby and Darin for surviving children's benefits under § 202 (d) (1) of the Social Security Act, 70 Stat. 807, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 402 (d) (1) (1970 ed. and Supp. IV), based upon Cuffee's earnings record.
In operative terms, the Act provides that an unmarried son or daughter of an individual, who died fully or currently insured under the Act, may apply for and be
The District Court ultimately affirmed each of the factual findings of the administrative agency: that Robert Cuffee was the children's father; that he never acknowledged his paternity in writing; that his paternity or support obligations had not been the subject of a judicial proceeding during his lifetime; that no common-law marriage had ever been contracted between Cuffee and Lucas, so that the children could not inherit Cuffee's personal property under the intestacy law of Rhode Island; and that, at the time of his death, he was neither living with the children nor contributing to their support. 390 F.Supp. 1310, 1312-1314 (1975). None of these factual matters is at issue here.
With this conclusion, the District Court reversed the administrative decision and ordered the Secretary to pay benefits for both children. Jurisdictional Statement 28a.
The Secretary appealed directly to this Court. 28 U. S. C. § 1252. We noted probable jurisdiction and set the case for argument with Norton v. Mathews, post, p. 524. 423 U.S. 819 (1975).
The Secretary does not disagree that the Lucas children and others similarly circumstanced are treated differently, as a class, from those children—legitimate and illegitimate—who are relieved by statutory presumption of any requirement of proving actual dependency at the time of death through cohabitation or contribution: for children in the advantaged classes may be statutorily entitled to benefits even if they have never been dependent upon the father through whom they claim.
Although the District Court concluded that close judicial scrutiny of the statute's classifications was not necessary to its conclusion invalidating those classifications, it also concluded that legislation treating legitimate and illegitimate offspring differently is constitutionally suspect,
But where the law is arbitrary in such a way, we have had no difficulty in finding the discrimination impermissible on less demanding standards than those advocated here. New Jersey Welfare Rights Org. v. Cahill, 411 U.S. 619 (1973); Richardson v. Davis, 409 U.S. 1069 (1972); Richardson v. Griffin, 409 U.S. 1069 (1972); Weber, supra; Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968). And such irrationality in some classifications does not in itself demonstrate that other, possibly rational, distinctions made in part on the basis of legitimacy are inherently untenable. Moreover, while the law has long
We therefore adhere to our earlier view, see Labine v. Vincent, 401 U.S. 532 (1971), that the Act's discrimination between individuals on the basis of their legitimacy does not "command extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process," San Antonio School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 28 (1973), which our most exacting scrutiny would entail.
Consistent with our decisions, the Secretary explains the design of the statutory scheme assailed here as a program to provide for all children of deceased insureds who can demonstrate their "need" in terms of dependency at the times of the insureds' deaths. Cf. Jimenez, 417 U. S., at 634. He authenticates this description by reference to the explicit language of the Act specifying that the applicant child's classification as legitimate, or acknowledged, etc., is ultimately relevant only to the determination of dependency, and by reference to legislative history indicating that the statute was not a general welfare provision for legitimate or otherwise "approved" children of deceased insureds, but was intended just "to replace the support lost by a child when his father . . . dies . . . ." S. Rep. No. 404, 89th Cong., 1st Sess., 110 (1965).
Taking this explanation at face value, we think it clear that conditioning entitlement upon dependency at the time of death is not impermissibly discriminatory in providing only for those children for whom the loss of the parent is an immediate source of the need. Cf. Geduldig v. Aiello, 417 U.S. 484, 492-497 (1974); Jefferson v. Hackney, 406 U.S. 535 (1972); Richardson v. Belcher,
But appellees contend that the actual design of the statute belies the Secretary's description, and that the statute was intended to provide support for insured decedents' children generally, if they had a "legitimate" claim to support, without regard to actual dependency at death; in any case, they assert, the statute's matrix of classifications bears no adequate relationship to actual dependency at death. Since such dependency does not justify the statute's discriminations, appellees argue, those classifications must fall under Gomez v. Perez, supra. These assertions are in effect one and the same.
Congress' purpose in adopting the statutory presumptions of dependency was obviously to serve administrative convenience. While Congress was unwilling to assume that every child of a deceased insured was dependent at the time of death, by presuming dependency on the basis of relatively readily documented facts, such as legitimate birth, or existence of a support order or paternity decree, which could be relied upon to indicate the likelihood of continued actual dependency, Congress was able to avoid the burden and expense of specific case-by-case determination in the large number of cases where dependency is objectively probable. Such presumptions in aid of administrative functions, though they may approximate, rather than precisely mirror, the results that case-by-case adjudication would show, are permissible under the Fifth Amendment, so long as that lack of precise equivalence does not exceed the bounds of substantiality tolerated by the applicable level of scrutiny. See Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749, 772 (1975).
In cases of strictest scrutiny, such approximations must be supported at least by a showing that the Government's
Applying these principles, we think that the statutory classifications challenged here are justified as reasonable empirical judgments that are consistent with a design to qualify entitlement to benefits upon a child's dependency at the time of the parent's death. To begin with, we note that the statutory scheme is significantly different from the provisions confronted in cases in which the
Hence, it was held that
See also Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636, 645 (1975); cf. Labine v. Vincent, 401 U. S., at 539. But this conclusiveness in denying benefits to some classes of afterborn illegitimate children, which belied the asserted legislative reliance on dependency in Jimenez, is absent here, for, as we have noted, any otherwise eligible child may qualify for survivorship benefits by showing contribution to support, or cohabitation, at the time of death. Cf. Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 452-453, n. 9 (1973), distinguishing Starns v. Malkerson, 326 F.Supp. 234 (Minn. 1970), summarily aff'd, 401 U.S. 985 (1971).
It is, of course, not enough simply that any child of a deceased insured is eligible for benefits upon some showing
Similarly, we think, where state intestacy law provides that a child may take personal property from a father's estate, it may reasonably be thought that the child will more likely be dependent during the parent's life and at his death.
To be sure, none of these statutory criteria compels the extension of a presumption of dependency. But the constitutional question is not whether such a presumption is required, but whether it is permitted. Nor, in ratifying these statutory classifications, is our role to hypothesize independently on the desirability or feasibility of any possible alternative basis for presumption. These matters of practical judgment and empirical calculation are for Congress. Drawing upon its own practical experience,
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL join, dissenting.
The reason why the United States Government should not add to the burdens that illegitimate children inevitably acquire at birth is radiantly clear: We are committed to the proposition that all persons are created equal. The Court's reason for approving discrimination against this class—"administrative convenience"—is opaque and insufficient: opaque because the difference between this justification and the argument rejected in Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, is so difficult to
Jimenez involved a requirement that the wage earner must have contributed to the support of his illegitimate child prior to the onset of his disability; this case involves the requirement that the deceased wage earner was contributing to the support of his illegitimate child at the time of his death. The critical objections to the classification held invalid in Jimenez apply with equal force in this case.
The classification in Jimenez was "overinclusive" because it conclusively presumed that all legitimates and some illegitimates were dependent on the disabled wage earner when many such persons were not in fact dependent. Since legitimate as well as illegitimate children are sometimes abandoned by their father before his death, precisely the same objection applies to this statutory classification. Moreover, the Jimenez classification was "underinclusive" because it conclusively excluded some illegitimates who were in fact dependent on the wage earner.
In Jimenez the Secretary told the Court that the classification was "designed only to prevent spurious claims." Id., at 633. The Court held that objective insufficient to justify "the blanket and conclusive exclusion" of a subclass of illegitimates. Id., at 636. The statute has not changed but now we are told that the justification for a similar blanket and conclusive exclusion is "administrative convenience." I suggest that this is merely a different name for the same federal interest. For the statutory classification will not affect the processing of claims in any way except by substituting a mechanical test of dependency for the kind of inquiry that would otherwise be required to differentiate between the spurious and the genuine.
I am unable to identify a relevant difference between Jimenez and this case.
The Court recognizes "that the legal status of illegitimacy, however defined, is, like race or national origin, a characteristic determined by causes not within the control of the illegitimate individual, and it bears no relation to the individual's ability to participate in and contribute to society." Ante, at 505. For that reason, as the Court also recognizes, " `imposing disabilities on the illegitimate child is contrary to the basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship
The Court has characterized the purpose of the statute as providing benefits not for those individuals who had a legitimate claim to support from the deceased wage earner but rather for those who were actually dependent on the wage earner at the time of his death. In this analysis, the provisions of the statute which allow certain classes—such as legitimate children—to receive benefits without showing actual dependency are no more than statutory presumptions in aid of administrative convenience. This is an appropriate reading of the statute.
The Court goes on, however, to hold that such presumptions in aid of "administrative convenience" are permissible so long as the lack of precise equivalence between the fact giving rise to the presumption and the fact presumed "does not exceed the bounds of substantiality tolerated by the applicable level of scrutiny," ante, at 509. The opinion tells us very little, however, about the "applicable level of scrutiny." It is not "our most exacting scrutiny," ante, at 506; on the other hand, if the classification derives "possibly rational" support from another source, it is not "inherently untenable" simply because it rests in part on illegitimacy. Ante, at 505. I believe an admittedly illogical and unjust result
The Court has repeatedly held that distinctions which disfavor illegitimates simply because they are illegitimate are invalid. Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535; Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164. However irrational it may be to burden innocent children because their parents did not marry, illegitimates are nonetheless a traditionally disfavored class in our society. Because of that tradition of disfavor the Court should be especially vigilant in examining any classification which involves illegitimacy. For a traditional classification is more likely to be used without pausing to consider its justification than is a newly created classification. Habit, rather than analysis, makes it seem acceptable and natural to distinguish between male and female, alien and citizen, legitimate and illegitimate; for too much of our history there was the same inertia in distinguishing between black and white. But that sort of stereotyped reaction may have no rational relationship— other than pure prejudicial discrimination
In this case, the "true" classification, according to the Court, is one between children dependent on their fathers and children who are not so dependent. All of the subsidiary classifications (which have the actual effect of allowing certain children to be eligible for benefits regardless of actual dependency) are supposedly justified by the increased convenience for the agency in not being required in every case to determine dependency. But do these classifications actually bear any substantial relationship to the fact of dependency?
In this statute, one or another of the criteria giving rise to a "presumption of dependency" exists to make almost all children of deceased wage earners eligible. If a child is legitimate, he qualifies. If the child is illegitimate only because of a nonobvious defect in his parents' marriage, he qualifies. If a court has declared his father to be in fact his father, or has issued an order of support against his father, or if the father has acknowledged the child in writing, he qualifies. Apart from any of these qualifications, if the child is lucky enough to live in a State which allows him to inherit from his intestate father on a par with other children, he also qualifies. And in none of these situations need he allege, much less prove, actual dependency. Indeed, if the contrary fact is undisputed, he is nevertheless qualified.
The Court today attempts, at some length, to explain that each of these factors is rationally and substantially related to the actual fact of dependency, adopting even the somewhat tenuous rationalization of the District Court that " `[m]en do not customarily affirm in writing their responsibility for an illegitimate child unless the
Whether the classification is expressed in terms of eligible classes or in terms of presumptions of dependency, the fact remains that legitimacy, written acknowledgments, or state law make eligible many children who are no more likely to be "dependent" than are the children in appellees' situation. Yet in the name of "administrative convenience" the Court allows these survivors' benefits to be allocated on grounds which have
I am persuaded that the classification which is sustained today in the name of "administrative convenience" is more probably the product of a tradition of thinking of illegitimates as less deserving persons than legitimates. The sovereign should firmly reject that tradition. The fact that illegitimacy is not as apparent to the observer as sex or race does not make this governmental classification any less odious. It cannot be denied that it is a source of social opprobrium, even if wholly unmerited, or that it is a circumstance for which the individual has no responsibility whatsoever.
A fair evaluation of the competing interests at stake in this litigation requires affirmance of the judgment of the District Court.
I respectfully dissent.
"Every child (as defined in section 416 (e) of this title) . . . of an individual who dies a fully or currently insured individual, if such child—
"(A) has filed application for child's insurance benefits,
"(B) at the time such application was filed was unmarried and (i) either had not attained the age of 18 or was a full-time student and had not attained the age of 22 . . . and
"(C) was dependent upon such individual—
"(ii) if such individual has died, at the time of such death, . . .
"shall be entitled to a child's insurance benefit for each month, beginning with the first month after August 1950 in which such child becomes so entitled to such insurance benefits . . . ."
Section 216 (e), 42 U. S. C. § 416 (e), includes, under the definition of child, inter alia, "the child . . . of an individual," certain legally adopted children, certain stepchildren, and certain grandchildren and stepgrandchildren. Additionally, § 216 (h) (2) (A) of the Act, 42 U. S. C. § 416 (h) (2) (A), provides:
"In determining whether an applicant is the child . . . of a fully or currently insured individual for purposes of this subchapter, the Secretary shall apply such law as would be applied in determining the devolution of intestate personal property . . . by the courts of the State in which [such insured individual] was domiciled at the time of his death . . . . Applicants who according to such law would have the same status relative to taking intestate personal property as a child . . . shall be deemed such."
"A child shall be deemed dependent upon his father or adopting father or his mother or adopting mother at the time specified in paragraph (1) (C) of this subsection unless, at such time, such individual was not living with or contributing to the support of such child and—
"(A) such child is neither the legitimate nor adopted child of such individual, or
"(B) such child has been adopted by some other individual." Additionally, any child who qualifies under § 216 (h) (2) (A), see n. 1, supra, is considered legitimate for § 202 (d) (3) purposes, and thus dependent.
"If an applicant is a son or daughter of a fully or currently insured individual but is not (and is not deemed to be) the child of such insured individual under subparagraph (A), such applicant shall nevertheless be deemed to be the child of such insured individual if such insured individual and the mother or father, as the case may be, of such applicant went through a marriage ceremony resulting in a purported marriage between them which, but for a legal impediment described in the last sentence of paragraph (1) (B), would have been a valid marriage."
The specified last sentence of § 216 (h) (1) (B), 42 U. S. C. § 416 (h) (1) (B), in turn, refers only to
"an impediment (i) resulting from the lack of dissolution of a previous marriage or otherwise arising out of such previous marriage or its dissolution, or (ii) resulting from a defect in the procedure followed in connection with such purported marriage."
Section 216 (h) (3), as set forth in 42 U. S. C. § 416 (h) (3), provides:
"An applicant who is the son or daughter of a fully or currently insured individual, but who is not (and is not deemed to be) the child of such insured individual under paragraph (2) of this subsection, shall nevertheless be deemed to be the child of such insured individual if:
"(C) In the case of a deceased individual—
"(i) such insured individual—
"(I) had acknowledged in writing that the applicant is his son or daughter,
"(II) had been decreed by a court to be the father of the applicant, or
"(III) had been ordered by a court to contribute to the support of the applicant because the applicant was his son or daughter,
"and such acknowledgment, court decree, or court order was made before the death of such individual, or
"(ii) such insured individual is shown by evidence satisfactory to the Secretary to have been the father of the applicant, and such insured individual was living with or contributing to the support of the applicant at the time such insured individual died."
The Court, of course, has found the privacy of familial relationships to be entitled to procedural due process protections from disruption by the State, whether or not those relationships were legitimized by marriage under state law. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972). But the concerns relevant to that context are only tangential to the analysis here, since the statutory scheme does not interfere in any way with familial relations.
"A child would be paid benefits based on his father's earnings without regard to whether he has the status of a child under State inheritance laws if the father was supporting the child or had a legal obligation to do so."
But the clause's reference to legal obligations to support hardly establishes that the statute was designed to replace any potential source of lifetime support; in our view the passage appears only to be a partial description of the actual effect of §§ 416 (h) (3) (C) (i) (II) and (III), set forth in n. 3, supra, not an enunciation of the general purpose of the Act.
Thus, appellees, in order to make their case, must ultimately rely upon the asserted failure of the legislative product adequately to fit the purported legitimate aim.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
And the rationale behind the prohibition against the grant of any title of nobility by the United States, see U. S. Const., Art. I, § 9, cl. 8, equally would prohibit the United States from attaching any badge of ignobility to a citizen at birth.