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Divorce: Economic Issues - The Economic Situation Of Divorced Older Women

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Divorce: Economic Issues - The Economic Situation Of Divorced Older Women, What About The Future?, Two Key Developments, Social Security Provisions Relating To Divorce

The economic situation of divorced older women

Overall, the income situation of older divorced women is not very good. Many are poor, and most of the rest have very low incomes. For example, survey data for 1998 indicate that almost one-quarter of older divorced women had yearly total incomes below the poverty line (Social Security Administration).

There are also large differences in the sources of income by poor and nonpoor divorced older women. The poor women receive almost al of their income (86 percent) from Social Security programs. In contrast, income form work, employer-sponsored pensions, and interest plays a much more important role for those with incomes above the poverty level.

Table 1 Poverty among Older Women Age 45 or Over in 1989 SOURCE: Crown, W. H.; Mutschler, P.; Schultz, J. H.; and Loew, R. The Economic Status of Divorced Older Women. Waltham, Mass.: Policy Center on Aging, Heller Graduate School, Brandeis University, 1993.

A team of researchers at Brandeis University (including this author) focused on the economic situation of older divorced women in the late 1980s. It is widely known that the rate of poverty among all older women is very high, and much higher than for older men. Among older women, however, poverty rates vary greatly. Table 1 shows the 1989 rates for various subgroups of older women. It indicates that, based on a national sample of the U.S. population, poverty rates are significantly higher for women who are divorced or separated than for the other subgroups of older women. If the divorced group is broken down further by ethnic status (not shown in the table), the poverty rates in that year were even higher for minority women: 43 percent for Latino and 46 percent for nonwhite divorced older women.

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