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Widows' Time: Adjusting to Loss

aUniversity of Texas, USA
bCentre for Economic Analysis, Poland

50th Celebratory Volume

ISBN: 978-1-80455-126-4, eISBN: 978-1-80455-125-7

Publication date: 23 January 2023


By age 77 a plurality of women in wealthy Western societies are widows. Comparing older (aged 70+) married women to widows in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) 2003–2018 and linking the data to the Current Population Survey allow inferring the short- and longer-term effects of a demographic shock – husband's death – and measuring the paths of adjustment of time use to it. Widows differ from otherwise similar married women, especially from married women with working husbands, by cutting back on home production, mainly food preparation and housework, mostly by engaging in less of it each day, not doing it less frequently. The ratio of time to money expenditures on one item – food – is higher among married older couples than among widows. Widows are alone for 2/3 of the time they had spent with their spouses, with a small increase in time with friends and relatives shortly after becoming widowed. Older French, Italian, German, and Dutch women exhibit similar differences in time use; European widows also feel less time stress than married women. Following older women in 18 European countries before and after a partner's death shows that becoming widowed reduces their feelings of time pressure.




We thank the University of Minnesota Population Center IPUMS for the ATUS-X extracts, the Centre Maurice Halbwachs for the French data, the Centre for Time Use Research for the Dutch data, ISTAT for the Italian data, and the IZA for the German data. The SHARE data are from Börsch-Supan (2020), funded by the European Commission and various national funding sources (the second author will provide detailed SHARE acknowledgments upon request). Myck and Oczkowska acknowledge support from the Polish National Science Centre (grant number: 2018/29/B/HS4/00559). We thank Katie Genadek, Jonathan Gershuny, Frances Hamermesh (fortunately now in a minority), Melanie Lührmann, Shelly Lundberg, Robert Pollak, Hilmar Schneider, and Eric Stuen for useful comments, as well as participants in seminars at several universities and institutes. Len Goff provided very helpful research assistance.


Hamermesh, D.S., Myck, M. and Oczkowska, M. (2023), "Widows' Time: Adjusting to Loss", Polachek, S.W. and Tatsiramos, K. (Ed.) 50th Celebratory Volume (Research in Labor Economics, Vol. 50), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 369-396.



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