Why are older women in the UK poor?

Debora Price (Institute of Gerontology, King's College London)

Quality in Ageing and Older Adults

ISSN: 1471-7794

Publication date: 1 June 2006


Income in later life is an important factor in ensuring good health, quality of life, social engagement and subjective well‐being, yet it is now well known that women in later life are much poorer than men. In this article, data from the General Household Surveys 2001 and 2002 is used to show that this is largely the result of women's individual, and hidden, poverty within marriage. Dependency on men for income during the working life combines with the structure of the UK system to leave married men and married women with very unequal incomes after retirement. The median income of married and cohabiting women was only £53 per week, compared with men's £172; only 27% of married women had any private pension provision at all, compared with 75% of married men. Even among this 27% of women, half receive less than £35 a week from their pensions. Apart from the implications of this for potentially unequal access to money when cohabiting, the vast majority of women live alone for at least part of their retirement. When women become divorcees or widows, they cannot make up for lost income from their partners. Widows are thus relatively poor when compared with older women who have never married, but divorced women are on average the poorest of all. Social policies improving basic pension provision to all women in later life are urgently needed.



Price, D. (2006), "Why are older women in the UK poor?", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 23-32. https://doi.org/10.1108/14717794200600011

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