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Marriage, Fertility and Divorce: A Dynamic Equilibrium Analysis of Social Policy in Canada


  • Nezih Guner
  • John Knowles


Elderly women are much more likely to be poor than the elderly men. In 1992, 15.7 percent of elderly females, those over age 65, were in poverty, in contrast to 8.9 percent of elderly males. A nonmarried women who is on the verge of retirement has about 20 percent less wealth than a nonmarried women. Since women are expected to live about 4 years longer than men at age 65, these wealth differences imply even bigger income differences at older ages. Old men and women differ dramatically in their marital status as well. In 1990, 76.5 percent elderly men were married, while only 41.5 percent of elderly women were. Most of the elderly women, 49 percent, were widows. Some questions naturally arise: Why does elderly men and women differ in their old age incomes? Are these differences simply a result of widowhood or do they reflect differences in labor market experiences of men and women? How will the future of elderly women and men will be effected by the changes in US family structure and female labor for ce participation patterns that took place since 1950s? How do public policies affect the lives of elderly women?US family structure has changed dramatically between 1950 and 1990. As a result of lower marriage rates, doubling of divorce rates and a fourfold increase in the rate of extramarital fertility, the proportion of singleparent households increased nearly three-fold during this period, while the proportion of married-couple households fell to 56% in 1990. Although these changes and their macroeconomic effects have received much attention, there hasn't been any work that focuses on the implications of these changes for the lives of the elderly. The first of the cohorts to come of age during this regime change, however, is now entering their old age, and they will have very different life-cycles than their predecessors. Until now, the majority of single elderly women have been widows. This is certain to change with much more women entering their old age as singles.
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  • Nezih Guner & John Knowles, 2001. "Marriage, Fertility and Divorce: A Dynamic Equilibrium Analysis of Social Policy in Canada," Penn CARESS Working Papers 2330ae691c785001af741e1c1, Penn Economics Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:penntw:2330ae691c785001af741e1c15b1a198

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    1. S. Rao Aiyagari & Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2000. "On the State of the Union," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 213-244, April.
    2. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & John A. Knowles, 2003. "More on Marriage, Fertility, and the Distribution of Income," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(3), pages 827-862, August.
    3. Miles Corak & Andrew Heisz, 1999. "The Intergenerational Earnings and Income Mobility of Canadian Men: Evidence from Longitudinal Income Tax Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(3), pages 504-533.
    4. Sheila Eastman, 1992. "Improving Outcomes for Divorced Women," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 18(3), pages 318-326, September.
    5. Garnett Picot & John Myles, 1996. "Social Transfers, Changing Family Structure and Low Income Among Children," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 22(3), pages 244-267, September.
    6. Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 1996. "Work, Welfare, and Family Structure: What Have We Learned?," NBER Working Papers 5644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. R. A. Moffitt, "undated". "The Effect of Welfare on Marriage and Fertility: What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1153-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    8. Michael Charette & Ronald Meng, 1994. "The Determinants of Welfare Participation of Female Heads of Household in Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 27(2), pages 290-306, May.
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