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Women and divorce: Effects on working in later life

by on October 20, 2016

This Working Paper by Claudia Olivetti and Dana Rotz for the National Bureau of Economic Research has examined the relationship between women’s current marital status, past marital history, and later life labour market participation. The authors looked at the data for over 55,000 women in the US between between 1986 and 2008. From this, they were able to examine the financial impact of divorce on women, particularly regarding their ability to retire. 

What they found was that when women unexpectedly divorce later in life, they are less likely to have engaged in what they term ‘precautionary human capital investment’ (things like education and training) and are therefore more likely to have to work longer to increase their pension/capital prior to retirement. Women who got divorced in their 50s were 10% more likely to work full time in older age than those who got divorced before their 30s.

As cited in the Money Mic article which discusses these findings, there are quite differing poverty rates in the US for older men and women. The poverty rate for women divorcees over the age of 50 is 27% whereas for older men it is less than 12%.


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