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Worklife Determinants of Retirement Income Differentials Between Men and Women

  • Phillip B. Levine
  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • John W. Phillips

Women enter retirement having spent fewer years in market work, earned less over their lifetimes, and worked in different jobs than men of the same age. This study examines whether these differences in work-life experiences help explain why many women end up with lower levels of retirement income in old age. We use the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which provides information on labor market histories along with the ability to predict retirement income from employer pensions, social security benefits, and investment returns. We document differences in anticipated retirement income by sex that exist largely between nonmarried men and women. Multivariate models show that 85 percent of this retirement income gap can be attributed to differences in lifetime labor market earnings, years worked, and occupational segregation by sex. Our results suggest that as women's work-life experiences become more congruent with men's over time, the gap in retirement income between men and women may shrink.

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Paper provided by Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania in its series Pension Research Council Working Papers with number 99-19.

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Handle: RePEc:wop:pennpr:99-19
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  1. Blau, Francine D & Ferber, Marianne A, 1987. "Discrimination: Empirical Evidence from the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 316-20, May.
  2. Michael J. Boskin & John B. Shoven, 1988. "Poverty among the Elderly: Where are the Holes in the Safety Net?," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 115-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, 1997. "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-12, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  4. Phillip B. Levine & Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, . "Women on the Verge of Retirement: Predictors of Retiree Well-being," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  5. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 5912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gunderson, Morley, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 46-72, March.
  7. Debra S. Dwyer & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Health Problems as Determinants of Retirement: Are Self-Rated Measures Endogenous?," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  9. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions in the U.S. Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi88-1, December.
  10. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1998. "Social security reform in Latin America," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 15-18.
  11. Richard V. Burkhauser & J. S. Butler & James T. Wilkinson, 1985. "Estimating Changes in Well-Being Across Life: A Realized vs. Comprehensive Income Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Horizontal Equity, Uncertainty, and Economic Well-Being, pages 69-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Johnson, George & Solon, Gary, 1986. "Estimates of the Direct Effects of Comparable Worth Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1117-25, December.
  13. Macpherson, David A & Hirsch, Barry T, 1995. "Wages and Gender Composition: Why Do Women's Jobs Pay Less?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(3), pages 426-71, July.
  14. Blau, Francine D & Graham, John W, 1990. "Black-White Differences in Wealth and Asset Composition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 321-39, May.
  15. Marjorie B. McElroy, 1990. "The Empirical Content of Nash-Bargained Household Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 559-583.
  16. Elaine Sorensen, 1990. "The Crowding Hypothesis and Comparable Worth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(1), pages 55-89.
  17. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Projected Retirement Wealth and Saving Adequacy," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-1, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  18. Olivia S. Mitchell & James Moore & John Phillips, . "Explaining Retirement Saving Shortfalls," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-13, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  19. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1997. "Swimming Upstream: Trends in the Gender Wage Differential in 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 1-42, January.
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