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Why the Poverty Rate for Widows Continues to Go Down

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Thanks to changes in everything from work records to the workplace itself, the poverty rate of widows should keep falling into the future.

That’s according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which points out that while it’s common for widows to end up poverty-stricken if they lose a husband’s pension on his death — as well as because of a drop in retirement income from Social Security when the late husband’s benefit ceases — other changes in women’s circumstances have meant that for the past 20 years their poverty rate has been on the decline.

And as those other changes continue, the poverty rate should also extend its downward trend.

The move during the 1970s and 1980s of women into the workplace, coupled with better education leading to better jobs, means that women have increased their financial independence. And with those better jobs leading to a better chance of having an employer retirement plan, women are also better equipped than they used to be to prepare financially for retirement.

Of course, their problems aren’t over, by any means, but the long-term prognosis is positive. Among other changes, says the post, widows between the ages of 65 and 85 log 10 years more of work than their mothers’ generation did—and that has helped push down the poverty rate from 20% in 1994 to 13% in 2014, according to the Center for Retirement Research.

In addition, there are other trends that will influence widows’ poverty rate. For instance, women with less education and lower incomes are marrying at lower rates than they used to, meaning that married women are increasingly well-educated and have higher incomes. And the women –from this pool are the ones who will increasingly form the group of widows in the future—thus driving down the poverty rate even further.

The report estimates that widow’s poverty rate will drop to about 8% by 2029—compared to today’s 13%. That said, it concludes, “widows’ poverty rate is, and will continue to be, significantly higher than it is for married women.”

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