Most American citizens and American residents have a Social Security number. But how did they come to be?
It all started in the great depression during the 1930s, when the government created a Social Security program that was designed to be a mandatory pension. People would pay into it during their working lives and be able to withdraw during retirement. And your Social Security number was used to track what you put in and what you took out.
Since the program was only related to one’s working life, you only needed to apply for a Social Security card when you started working, and it was never meant to be used as a form of identification. But that’s changed over time thanks in part to the U.S. Tax Department, which started using Social Security numbers to track taxpayers.
The Tax Department even encouraged parents to give their children Social Security numbers in exchange for a tax rebate. So this transformed the number into a unique number that citizens were given from birth. Soon institutions like banks and schools started using the Social Security numbers to keep tabs on people
Nowadays, you need a Social Security number before you can get a driver’s license, apply to college, or own a home. So even though it was never meant to be a form of identification, it kind of is.
It is possible for a U.S. resident to change their Social Security number. To do this, they need to meet a certain condition, such as the person is objecting to the number for a religious reason, or the person has been a victim of identity theft.
A Social Security number is never reused unless it is accidentally given out in an administrative error. Since starting, over 450 million Social Security numbers have been issued. There are enough unused 9 digit Social Security numbers remaining to last several generations. After this, either a different digit amount will be issued, or Social Security numbers will finally have to be reused.