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Family ties: Women’s work and family histories and their association with incomes in later life in the UK

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  • Maria Evandrou
  • Jane Falkingham
  • Tom Sefton

Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between the family and work histories of older women in the UK and their individual incomes in later life, using retrospective data from the first fifteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey. The associations between women's family histories and their incomes later in life are relatively weak, and in many cases insignificant. Divorce, early widowhood and re-marriage are not associated with significant differences in older women's incomes, whilst motherhood is only associated with a small reduction in incomes later in life - and not at all for certain sub-groups of the population. Whilst there are significant differences in the work histories of older women with different family histories, this does not translate into large differences in their personal incomes, because work history-related income differentials are also relatively small. Even long periods in employment are not associated with significantly higher incomes in later life if these periods were in predominantly part-time or 'mixed' employment. Our analysis demonstrates how effective public transfers have been in dampening work history-related differentials in older women's incomes, especially for widows and those towards the bottom of the income distribution. On the one hand, this could be seen as a positive finding in that the 'pension penalty' associated with events such as motherhood and divorce are not as severe as is often anticipated. On the other hand, the main reason for this is that the pension returns to working longer are relatively low, especially for low-skilled women. Recent pensions reforms should eventually produce more equitable outcomes as between men and women, though possibly at the expense of greater inequality among women with different work and family histories.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Evandrou & Jane Falkingham & Tom Sefton, 2008. "Family ties: Women’s work and family histories and their association with incomes in later life in the UK," CASE Papers case135, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case135
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    File URL: https://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/CASEpaper135.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alan Manning & Barbara Petrongolo, 2005. "The Part-Time Pay Penalty," CEP Discussion Papers dp0679, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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    3. Elena Bardasi & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2010. "The Gender Gap In Private Pensions," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 343-363, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    older women; pensions; work history; family history; life course; retirement incomes;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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