Family ties: women’s work and family histories and their association with incomes in later life in the UK

Sefton, Tom, Evandrou, Maria and Falkingham, Jane (2008) Family ties: women’s work and family histories and their association with incomes in later life in the UK. Southampton, UK, University of Southampton, 56pp. (Centre for Research on Ageing Discussion Paper, 0705).


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This paper examines the relationship between the family and work histories of older
women in the UK and their individual incomes in later life, using retrospective data
from the first fifteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey. The associations
between women’s family histories and their incomes later in life are relatively weak,
and in many cases insignificant. Divorce, early widowhood and re-marriage are not
associated with significant differences in older women’s incomes, whilst motherhood
is only associated with a small reduction in incomes later in life – and not at all for
certain sub-groups of the population. Whilst there are significant differences in the
work histories of older women with different family histories, this does not translate
into large differences in their personal incomes, because work history-related income
differentials are also relatively small. Even long periods in employment are not
associated with significantly higher incomes in later life if these periods were in
predominantly part-time or ‘mixed’ employment. Our analysis demonstrates how
effective public transfers have been in dampening work history-related differentials in
older women’s incomes, especially for widows and those towards the bottom of the
income distribution. On the one hand, this could be seen as a positive finding in that
the ‘pension penalty’ associated with events such as motherhood and divorce are not
as severe as is often anticipated. On the other hand, the main reason for this is that the
pension returns to working longer are relatively low, especially for low-skilled
women. Recent pensions reforms should eventually produce more equitable outcomes
as between men and women, though possibly at the expense of greater inequality
among women with different work and family histories

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Additional Information: Also published as London School of Economics Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion Discussion Paper 135
Related URLs:
Keywords: older women, pensions, work history, family history, life course, retirement incomes
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Social Sciences > Social Statistics
ePrint ID: 71132
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2010
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 13:01
Centre for Population Change: Understanding Population Change in the 21st Century
Funded by: ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (RES-625-28-0001)
Led by: Jane Cecelia Falkingham
1 January 2009 to 31 December 2013

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