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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

New article published in the Journal of Social Policy

Published: 12 April 2011Origin: Gerontology

New research by Professor Maria Evandrou with Professor Jane Falkingham and Tom Sefton examines the relationaship between UK women's family and work histories and their income in later life.

Using retrospective data from the British Household Panel Survey collected between 1991 and 2006, the study finds that the association between women's family histories and their income in later life is relatively weak.

The research reveals that women who experience divorce, early widowhood or remarriage are not significantly worse off in later life than those who do not. Furthermore, motherhood is only associated with a small reduction in later life income. So while women who have different family histories have significantly different work histories, there is only a marginal effect on income in later life. The authors explain that this is because the types of employment pursued by most women are not associated with higher retirement incomes. Also, public transfers go some way to even out work history related differences.

The authors note that on one hand these findings sound positive; the 'pension penalty' associated with lifecourse events of women such as divorce and motherhood are not as severe as often anticipated. On the other hand, the main reason for this is that the pension returns for women working longer are relatively low. The analysis suggests that women retiring over the next 20 years are unlikely to benefit significantly from the additional years they have spent in employment because most of the increase is in part-time employment.

This interesting and topical new article highlights the tension between rewarding work through increased pension returns and protecting the most vulnerable - that is those who have time out of employment due to caring for the family, long-term disability or unemployment. The authors recommend that to resolve this dilemma pension entitlements should move away from being closely associated with an individuals work history and move towards a universal entitlement based on a citizen's pension.

To read the article in full please click here.

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