The Effects of the Gender Wage Gap Will Follow You Until You're Old and Gray

Image via Flickr.
Image via Flickr.

Women in heterosexual relationships frequently end up alone in their old age, due in part to longevity and in part to the tendency to marry older men. The “Gray Gender Gap” isn’t just about companionship, it’s about economics.

The statistics on aging are regularly collected by various federal agencies and published for public analysis. The New York Times took a look at this year’s Older Americans compilation and drew conclusions you’d probably guess at, but are very depressing when confirmed. Basically, women take care of men most of their lives. Then those men die, and they’re left alone.

Loss of a long-term partner is terrible, but independence could send an older woman on a tour of self-discovery, book clubs, and water coloring. Unfortunately, it is usually far more difficult than that, especially if you’re poor. Apparently, we can’t escape that economic gap between men and women even after retirement. NYT’s writer Paula Span asked researchers about how being widowed hits women in the wallet:

“Women take more of a hit financially from widowhood and divorce,” said Deborah Umberson, director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

How much of a hit? Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, has calculated poverty rates based on the federal Current Population Survey. Her findings: About 8 percent of married older adults are poor or “near poor.” Among unmarried men, the percentage rises to about 20 percent. For unmarried women, it’s 27 percent.


Dr. Umberson also says that economic difficulties are terrible for your health, as well as divorce and widowhood. The statistics show that among people over 75, twice as many women end up living along in comparison to men. Women aren’t just more likely to end up alone, they’re more likely to end up alone without any cash.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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I think it’s all well and adorable when people at entry level say that there’s really no discrimination.

Every time a dude gets paid more or promoted or gets the better project when a woman is qualified, it is not amusing. And it gets worse as you get older.

And for all of you that say, “It just doesn’t pay for me to have a job. I’ll stay home with the kids because it just doesn’t pay for me to have a job.” Think again. It’s NOT just your take home wage. It’s also insurance. It’s also pay raises and possibilities to continue to work at a wage that could be your income because if you drop out, you’ll lose out. It’s also retirement and social security. If you don’t work, you are entitled to about half of your spouse’s social security. You don’t get double as a couple. Half is usually not as much as you’d get from social security at a lower wage than your spouse is making. And if you have to go back to work, you want better options than an hourly service job without real health benefits. If you don’t think about having a job that could pay your mortgage and opt out of thinking about it because you are currently privileged to have a spouse working, think again.