The Economic Consequences of Widowhood

33 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008

See all articles by David Weir

David Weir

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR)

Robert J. Willis

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Purvi Sevak

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Mathematica Policy Research

Date Written: April 2002

Abstract

We analyzed the economic consequences of a husband's death using events that occurred between the first two waves of the HRS and AHEAD studies. We compared poverty transitions against published results from Social Security's Retirement History Survey of the 1970s. Widowhood remains an important risk factor for transition into poverty, although somewhat less so than twenty years ago. Women over age 65 (AHEAD) are less likely to experience severe economic changes than women under age 61 (HRS). Several factors account for the age differences: the declining importance of husband's earnings with age, the rising importance of Social Security benefits, and the occasionally large out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with husband's death before Medicare eligibility. The greater economic impact of widowhood at younger ages is consistent with our cross-section evidence that poverty rates rise with duration of widowhood but are only weakly associated with age.

Suggested Citation

Weir, David and Willis, Robert J. and Sevak, Purvi, The Economic Consequences of Widowhood (April 2002). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. WP 2002-023. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1084677 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1084677

David Weir (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Institute for Social Research (ISR) ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
United States

Robert J. Willis

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Purvi Sevak

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Mathematica Policy Research ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 481030
United States

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