After Death Do Us Part: An Analysis of the Economic Well Being of Widows in Four Countries

Richard V. Burkhauser, Cornell University
Philip Giles, Statistics Canada
Dean R. Lillard, Cornell University
Johannes Schwarze, Universitat Bamberg

Using newly matched longitudinal data from the United States, Germany, Great Britain and Canada, we show that despite dramatically different social welfare systems, the change in the average woman's economic well being in these countries following the death of her husband is remarkably similar. While the United States has the greatest share of women who experience dramatic declines in well being, most were in the upper part of the income distribution prior to their husband's death. The mean household size-adjusted replacement rate for women in the lower tail of the distribution prior to widowhood rises substantially in all four countries.

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Presented in Session 23: Determinants and Consequences of Income Inequality