Why Retirement, Social Security, and Age Discrimination Policies Need to Consider the Intersectional Experiences of Older Women

Source: Ian Burn, Patrick Button, Theodore F Figinski, Joanne Song McLaughlin, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 30, Issue 3, 2020
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From the abstract:
Population aging makes retirement security a critical issue. Unfortunately, retirement security is deteriorating over time, and there is a significant amount of income inequality in retirement (Poterba, 2014). Recent cuts to Social Security (e.g., the increase in the full retirement age [FRA], which is the age at which workers can retire with full benefits) partly drive the erosion in retirement security, and similar cuts may be forthcoming. Extending work lives into older ages is thus increasingly important to improve retirement security (Button, 2020; Maestas, 2010, 2018).

However, retirement security is significantly worse for older women, compared to older men, as older women face higher rates of poverty, especially at older ages. Figure 1 shows that poverty rates for older men are relatively consistent by age, ranging from 7.1% to 8.1%. For women, poverty rates start at 8.4% for ages 65 to 69 (compared to 7.1% for men) and rise to 13.5% for ages 80 and older (compared to 8.1% for men). This disparity in poverty rates may be increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current recession, as early evidence suggests that women ages 65 and older faced larger increases in unemployment rates compared to men and younger women (Bui, Button, & Picciotti, 2020).

In this report, we document trends and policies that contribute to the increased poverty faced by older women. We hope our examples of how older women face different experiences make a clear case for considering the impacts on older women, specifically, when setting policy.