Until death do us part: an analysis of the economic well-being of widows in four countries

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2005


Objectives. Our objective was to show how a woman's economic well-being changes in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and Canada after her husband's death and the importance of public and private income sources in offsetting the economic consequences of that death.

Methods. With data from the Cross-National Equivalent File, we used event history analysis to track changes in the social security replacement rate and the more comprehensive total income replacement rate for women and to show how these changes vary across age and household income quintiles within and across countries.

Results. There were substantial differences across the countries in how income from specific sources changes, especially with respect to the mix of income from government and private sources, but the overall across-country pattern of total income replacement rates was remarkably similar both in size and in distribution across age and the woman's place in the income distribution prior to her husband's death.

Discussion. Studies that focus on a social security replacement rate will seriously understate the actual total income replacement rate of women following a husband's death. This will especially be the case in countries like the United States where private sources of income play a more important role in income replacement.

Published in

Journal of Gerontology


Volume: 60B (5): S238-S246





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