Study: Older Women Face Economic Insecurity

According to a new study, a shocking 60% of women over 65 can’t afford basic living expenses.

These disparities are often the result of unequal pay and opportunities for women throughout their lives. Women are more likely than men to have worked lower-wage jobs and to have taken time off to care for other family members. While Social Security makes up 59% of older men’s income, it makes up 77% of older women’s income. Another factor in this divide is that older women are more likely to live alone than older men, and thus live in households with lower income and no one else to share costs.

This study, by the organization Wider Opportunities for Women, is part of their Elder Economic Security Initiative, and compared cost of living state-by-state to older people’s income.

This new report echoes findings from a study done last year by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In that study, 47% of women reported having little or no confidence that their assets would last them through their years of retirement, and they also reported at much higher rates than men that they have had difficulty paying for food, housing and health care. Women also reported lower levels of investment in retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s.

These studies highlight how important Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are. They keep millions of people out of poverty, especially as fewer and fewer jobs offer defined-benefit pensions, and they protect older Americans from the impact of catastrophic medical bills. These figures also show how important it is to eliminate disparities in pay for men and women, so that women aren’t disadvantaged later in life, and how important it is to protect the ability of workers to bargain for fair pay and retirement benefits.

Of course, yesterday the Republican majority in the U.S. House passed a budget that would be a devastating blow to Medicare and Medicaid, raising out-of-pocket costs and eroding the guarantee of health coverage for retirees. These politicians—who have perfectly secure health care and pensions themselves—thought that lower taxes on the very rich were a higher priority than protecting seniors.

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