The relationship between women’s work histories and incomes in later life in the UK, US and West Germany

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2011


Using data from several large-scale longitudinal surveys, this article investigates the relationship between the work histories and personal incomes (from both public and private sources) of older women in the UK, US and West Germany. By comparing three countries with different welfare regimes and pension systems, we seek to gain a better understanding of the interaction between the life course, pension system and women’s incomes in later life. The association between older women’s incomes and work histories is strongest in West Germany and weakest in the UK, where there is evidence of a ‘pensions poverty trap’ and where only predominantly full-time employment is associated with significantly higher incomes in later life. Work history matters less for widows (in all three countries) and more for recent birth cohorts and more educated women (UK only). The article concludes with a brief discussion of the treatment of women under different pension regimes assessed by the criteria of adequacy, proportionality, vertical equity and horizontal equity.

Published in

Journal of European Social Policy

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 21 , p.20 -36




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