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Journal of Applied Gerontology

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 28  |  Issue: 3  |  Page No.: 320 - 341

Older Women and Poverty Transition: Consequences of Income Source Changes From Widowhood

M Gillen and H. Kim


Older single women are disproportionately vulnerable to poverty. Using data from the 2002 and 2004 waves of the Health and Retirement Study of 5,799 women age 65 or older, this study investigated the effect of change in income sources by recent spousal loss on poverty transition. The focus is on (a) the effect of widowhood on income source change and (b) how such change affects poverty transition of recently widowed older women. Findings indicate that widowhood greatly decreases income from every source. Specifically, a $10 increase in social security benefits decreased the probability of poverty transition for recently widowed older women by 67.2%. These findings call for reconsidering social security survivor benefit rules and women's education with regard to financial security in retirement.

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