Pamela Yip recently wrote an article about how single women face a strong possibility of poverty in their later years. I include an excerpt:
It’s when an elderly spouse dies that the financial equilibrium suffers. If the husband dies, it’s much more devastating to the wife. Nearly 30 percent of older non-married women are either poor or near poor, according to a recent report by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
“Of all the factors associated with poverty in old age, the most critical is to be a woman without a husband,” the center said.
Take a look at these sobering statistics compiled by Nadia Karamcheva, a graduate student in economics at Boston College, and Alicia H. Munnell, director of the retirement research center:
~ 17.4 percent of single women older than 65 fell below the poverty line in 2004.
~ An additional 10.8 percent were “near poor,” with an income less than 125 percent of the poverty threshold.
~ As a whole, 28.2 percent of single older women are either poor or near poor — a clearly vulnerable group.
Single women also constitute a significant portion of the elderly population, a share that steadily increases with age. Among those 80 or older, non-married women account for 56 percent of the population.
I think this results from various factors.
Namely, I think patriarchy obviously contributes. Women of equal merit receive lower pay than men for doing the same jobs just as well. Culturally, women have not traditionally dealt with finances, such as banking and investing.
In addition to patriarchy, I think the problem lies in the fact that we do not ensure that people make enough to secure a complete retirement. We do not consider a person poor if they make enough to buy food, clothes, shelter, etc. right now, but we do not take in consideration that they need to also earn enough to pay for these needs after retirement.
We need to include retirement costs when calculating a living wage and the cost of living. Then, we need to make sure every person can make a living wage in a feasible, honest and non-degrading way.